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Oberlin in Ghana

July 21, 2013

As I mentioned earlier, the Oberlin Creativity and Leadership Fund gave me a grant of $2000 to start a clean water project in Dodome Awuiasu, a small village on the outer limits of the Volta region, Ghana, where I volunteered as a teacher before coming to university. The grant allowed me to provide 80 large water filters to the village, to be distributed among individual families, the local school and clinic. Previously, the community had no access to clean water; each morning, the children would collect buckets of water from a very brown stream. These filters, produced by the charity Pure Home Water, founded by MIT professor Susan Murcott, make use of the natural filtering properties of clay. Pouring water through them removes 99% of potentially harmful bacteria and sediment. They are cheap, made by local employees in a factory in the Northern region of Ghana, and maintenence-free.

As well as providing clean water to families in Dodome Awuaisu, the filters create a small business opportunity. There is a demand for locally purified and bagged water in this area of Ghana. It would be possible for individuals to supplement their income by getting involved in that industry, or even by establishing a cooperative within the village. Such an initiative could fund the supply of filters in the future and allow the project to grow sustainably, from the inside out.

Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was forced to postpone my own visit to Ghana this summer, but I will be going very soon to check on the progress of the project and to get an idea of how it can expand in the future. The delivery of the filters went ahead without me, facilitated by my colleague Worlanyo, who travelled to the village on my behalf. Here are his photos of the day that they arrived.

The filters on one of the trucks. The dirt roads to Dodome Awuiasu are full of potholes and are home to the not so occasional snake (they have actually been known to get inside moving vehicles and cause havoc). I'm amazed the driver got all of those filters there in one piece.

The chief (in the red and yellow cloth) and elders at the handing over ceremony.

The exact moment when the filters were handed over. Was it staged? I couldn't say.

Primary school children with stationery that we provided for the school in addition to the Obie-filters, as I will now call them.

Samuel and Patricia, the two children that I raise school fees for each year in collaboration with the SmartKids Foundation, back home for the summer. They graduated from Junior High School with flying colours and will be attending great new schools next year. Samuel wants to study law, and Patricia, mathematics. She also plans on becoming the president. Here they are at their school, just around the time of the final exams:

They're so grown up already!

Carrying the filters home.

Thank you to Oberlin for allowing me to start a wonderful project in a community that I care deeply for. I have been informed that the village elders are eager to discuss further socioeconomic development initiatives with me and with my university, so I am sure that this is the start of a long and prosperous relationship!

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