Tag Archives: EDSAM

Big Fat Ghanaian Wedding

Over the weekend I attended my co-worker’s, Alex’s, wedding. In Ghana there seems to be a funeral just about every weekend, so attending a wedding was a nice change of pace. Surprisingly, Ghanaian weddings (or at least this one) are very similar to American weddings.

Me with the Groom.

Bride and Groom cutting the cake.




First Grant Approved

Some of my previous blog posts seem to suggest that I’ve been on vacation for the past eight months. Contrary to popular belief, I’ve actually been working. Sometimes it’s just more exciting to write about the “fun” things that I’ve been experiencing. However, this post will be just business.


A latrine artisan I’ve been working with in a neighboring community informed me that the kindergarten, primary, and junior high schools in the community don’t have toilet facilities. The students were defecating in the outskirts of the school, because they had no other place to go. Aside from the negative health implications, it also causes the students to be late for class and puts them at risk of snakebites. He pleaded with me to try to do something about it, so I applied for a small grant to build latrines for the school.

I was just informed today that the small grant I submitted over a month ago was approved! Now the actual work will begin when I have to monitor the construction of the school latrines and form health clubs in the school.

Other Projects In the Works

  • I am currently writing a small grant to get shutters and doors for a school in my community. Having classrooms without doors and shutters causes many problems. You can read about the problem here, as it was featured in the news. My community seems really gung-ho about it, so I’m excited for the project.

No doors and shutters leaves the classroom open to the elements and potential thieves.

  • I’m looking into getting boreholes for some nearby communities. My community received piped water right before I arrived, but some of the neighboring communities don’t have the same luxury
  • I agreed to teach ICT once a week at a junior high school in my community. Teaching is really challenging for me here. I have to speak very slow and clear for the students to have a chance of understanding my English. Also, students aren’t taught how to think critically at school; they “learn” through rote memorization. I’m a firm a believer that you aren’t learning unless you are thinking. Needless to say, I’m up for a challenge.

On top of all this I’ll be supporting my Local NGO, EDSAM, with all of their Ghana WASH activities and household latrine construction in the Volta Region. We are trying to finish building 200 latrines before we start building another phase of construction. I think I’ll be very busy in the foreseeable future.

Damanko Trip Part II

The next day we left Nkwanta at 7:00 am to finish the last leg of the journey to Damanko. This last 50 km takes us two and half hours, because the road isn’t paved. Fortunately I was starting to feel better at this point so the bumpy road didn’t affect me too much.

The reason we came to Damanko was to train Ghana WASH latrine beneficiaries and community volunteers on the importance and use of household latrines. Recently, a Peace Corps volunteer who lives in Damanko had about 100 latrines built there. However, many of these people haven’t had a toilet to use their whole lives so they don’t understand why they should use one. If you are given something and don’t understand the importance of using it, there is a good chance you won’t use it. This isn’t Field of Dreams, just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.

The first two days in Damanko, we held workshops for the latrine recipients. We asked them where people defecate in the community. The typical responses were “in the bush”, “in the refuse dump”, “in the gutter”, or “behind the house”. From here it was easy to make the connection between feces being everywhere in the community and the types of diseases that will result from it. We also taught the basics of how to use a latrine, such as never put chemicals into the latrine pit, but always put anal cleansing materials into the latrine pit. Before coming to Ghana I didn’t know of some of these principles. The final two days consisted of similar training except to community health volunteers.

The biggest challenge wasn’t the material being taught, but the language barrier. Not only was there a language barrier between me and the people from Damanko, but also between my Ghanaian NGO colleagues and the people from Damanko. The majority of people living in Damanko are from the Konkonba tribe that speaks Konkonba and my colleagues are from the Ewe tribe that speaks Ewe. So, most of the lessons were done in Twi (a more common Ghanaian language) and English with a Konkonba translator. You know there are a lot of languages in Ghana when there is a language barrier between the natives. My lessons on latrine maintenance and hand washing were done in “yevu English” and occasionally translated to Ghanaian English (more on that in another blog post).

My work counterpart training household latrine recipients with a translator.

After the four days of lessons we attended part of a Konkonba funeral, were people were dancing around large drums. The dancers held props, such as shovels, tree branches, and machetes. I’m told the Konkonbas have a tendency to fight, so holding props while dancing makes them feel powerful.

People dancing at the funeral.

Drums in the center of the dancing circle.


Damanko Trip Part I

Last week I travelled to Damanko with EDSAM to educate Ghana WASH latrine recipients and community volunteers on the importance of latrines and how to use and maintain them. Damanko is 290 km from my village in the northern part of the Volta region. However, since I’m in Ghana getting there isn’t as simple as spending two and a half hours on a freeway.

7:30 am – I arrive at my work counterpart’s house. The EDSAM car is supposed to pick us up at 8 am. The week before I ate some bad food on the roadside that gave me terrible diarrhea for a couple days. Yesterday I thought I had recovered, but I am having a relapse this morning.

9:30 am – I use the toilet in my counterpart’s house and as I finish the car arrives to pick us up. As we leave I pop some anti-diarrhea pills so I don’t have to stop the car to use the bush as my toilet every 30 minutes along the way.

The EDSAM Car. The back seats are aligned parallel with the car so when sitting on them you view out of the side window. Still better than riding on a trotro though.

11:30 am – We arrive in Hohoe and stop to eat lunch. My travel book calls Hohoe “A sleepy town nestled in the Volta Region”, but last month in the town there was a deadly clash between the Muslim and Ewe communities. In fact, the Peace Corps banned all volunteers from entering Hohoe for a week. Here is an article describing what happened. We head to Del’s Restaurant for lunch and they have burgers and pizza on menu! However, the anti-diarrhea medicine is making me feel really nauseous (although it is working), so I opt for chicken with plain rice.

12:30 pm – We leave Hohoe and after ten minutes of driving our driver notices that something is wrong with the car’s brakes. Fortunately, we just passed a mechanic so we turn around to have him look at it. The mechanic is located in a dirty lot filled with broken down trotros. There are a lot of guys working on the trotros, but they quickly find time to help us. At this point I feel like I’m going to puke, as my “system” must be clogged up from the anti-diarrhea pills. Somehow I’m able to sleep for two hours in the car as about six mechanics work on the back brakes. You would think they were performing open-heart surgery the way they all huddled around each brake.

There are at least six more people behind the camera.

5:30 pm – After five hours the car is repaired and we take off. I’m amazed the mechanic only charges us GH¢10.00 (about $6) for five hours of work. In my experience many people in Ghana don’t know how to properly price their services. I feel better after sleeping and I enjoy the next hour and a half of the ride, because the road is smooth.

7:00 pm – The paved road ends. It just rained so the dirt road is a mess. I feel nauseous again, probably because I’m getting thrown around like a rag-doll in the back of the car. I think to myself, “people actually pay to go off-roading in America?”

9:30 pm – We reach Nkwanta and still have 50 km on a dirt road to Damanko. We decide to overnight at the first accommodation we find, the Gateway Hotel, and finish the rest of the journey in the morning. Luckily, the Gateway Hotel is the nicest hotel I’ve been to in Ghana. They even have a shower with hot water. This must be my reward for enduring such a long day.

Promotional Hygiene Campaign

Last week I helped my Local NGO, EDSAM, conduct promotional hygiene campaigns in three of the four communities we are currently constructing latrines in. On Wednesday we combined my community, Abutia Teti, with another nearby community, Abutia Agorve. On Friday we went to Tsyome Afedo, a community farther into the bush where you can to take a torn-up dirt road to get to. The goal of the campaigns was to get the community aware and hopefully excited about health, sanitation, and personal hygiene. We wanted to involve the youth in community to educate them about proper hygiene. Specifically, we educated them about washing their hands, and using and maintaining a household latrine.

To do this we brought in a brass band and gathered the school children (first grade through junior high) and the band at one end of the community. Then the students marched with the band to the other end of the community. Naturally, random community members joined the march. Many Ghanaians like to break out into dance at the sound music, let alone a brass brand. After the march, everyone gathered under the community-meeting place. In my community it is under two huge trees. Here, municipal environmental health officers spoke to the community. After the talk, the students were served meat pies and refreshments.

For the most part the promotional hygiene campaigns were successful. The community and the students were excited about the march. However, the largest school in my community opted out from joining. The headmaster requested that the Municipal Government send him an official letter before he involved his students. However, the other school’s headmasters did not request a letter, so I have a hard time believe that such a letter was necessary. Unfortunately, there was not nearly enough time for this to happen, so the school did not participate. This annoyed me because we recently built a large latrine for the school. Most of all, I felt bad for the students who had to watch the march from their classroom. The next day I had to answer to some of the students who asked me why they weren’t involved in the march.

Here are some photos from the first campaign:

Brass band marching.

Front of the marching line.

Middle of the marching line.

Health talk at community meeting place.




Computer Training

The Local NGO, EDSAM, I’m working with in Ho is not only involved in implementing the Ghana WASH project, but also providing microcredit to small businesses. For the past four years they have been operating in Ho, but are currently expanding their microcredit operations to northern Volta. As a result, the new staff from northern Volta traveled down to Ho for basic computer training that I volunteered to conduct.

The topics of the class included:

  • Computer Theory
  • Typing
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Internet

The participants all graduated high school within the past couple of years. During school they all took computer courses, but because they did not have access to a lab all of their learning was theoretical. As you might imagine, it is difficult to learn to use a computer with a blackboard and chalk. Fortunately, the director for EDSAM is involved with a very nice computer lab (considering we are in Africa) in Ho that we were able to use for the week, so we got a lot practical work in.

The NGO computer training participants from norther Volta.

The course didn’t go without it’s challenges though. For most of the days we had to share the lab with another class – alternating times when we could use the lab. One day the teacher for the other class didn’t show up, so the students for the other class attended my class. This slowed down our progress a bit as the two sets of students had different skill levels. Also, on the last day of the training, someone forgot to pay the power bill, so the lab was without power for half the day. Apparently in Ghana power-bills are prepaid. So you purchase electricity from the power company before you use it.

Overall, the students seemed pleased with the training. There is a computer lab at the high school in my community, so I think I can use the same lesson plan to teach there as well. On top of this I am also doing some more advanced computer training to my NGO colleagues that are based in Ho.