Sunday, September 26, 2010

Edward's Reflections

I just want to take the time now to look back on our experience in this class and Patriensa.

We all came into the class about a year ago with varying degrees of expectations. There were people from different kinds of cultural backgrounds and engineering disciplines. Little did we know, this pilot class allowed our group to go beyond what we expected. Thrown together in a group with random students, we managed to turn the professor's ideas into a concrete reality with hard work and dedication. None of this was easy - everybody had to contribute and devote a large amount of time to the project. There were times when we had our doubts. Our project managers were able to give the group a direction and confidence in the project. Through their leadership, we remained disciplined and continued along.

Once we were able to get funding and made the necessary preparations, it was time to go to the village. Unfortunately, only four students (Carrie, Stephen, Caleb, myself) were able to actually go to the village and bring the water project to completion. To be able to help a village in need of a helping hand was incredible. The people of Patriensa were incredibly heartwarming and hospitable. They did everything they could to help and we needed every single bit of it. Without them, the project would not have happened - plain and simple. From the children to the village elders to our little group, everybody pulled their own weight. The children especially were a joy to work with - they were always happy to be with us and weren't shy about it. The people of Ghana, the culture (customs, language, food), and the environment were very new to me but at the same time very familiar. For me, a lot of the food and lifestyle was reminiscent to that of Taiwan's culture. For example, the markets in the city of Accra looked (and smelled) identical to Taipei's nightmarket. But everything else about the culture was new to me - including SOME of the food (very large snails).

Once I heard the news that the water system was working, I was ecstatic. Our primary objective had been completed and the children and village have another access point to water. Our hand sanitation education was somewhat successful and hopefully the teachers can reiterate the importance of washing hands. The village of Patriensa are a very strong and smart people. Hopefully in the future projects for this class, there will be ways to bolster the village economy and allow the young villagers to stay in the village and give back to this community in addition to the water projects or construction projects.

I want to give my thanks to our whole Ghana group, the Peru group, the professors, Afren, and the entire village of Patriensa. To experience a brand new culture and people in a small village environment and be able to help such a large community is something indescribable and life-changing in many ways; I encourage everybody to find some way to give back to the community if you can.

I wish the best of luck to this class and its future endeavors and expect great things ahead.

Monday, September 13, 2010

June 17th Project Completion Ceremony

Our journey throughout the past year has been amazing. The culmination of all of the time, effort and hard work from the Ghana team members and our in-country support in Patriensa came to fruition on our last day in the village. With the well system constructed and in full operation, we as students who were provided a chance to participate in the project were overwhelmed. What the community did for us next was beyond everything we expected.

The last day of our stay in Patriensa Pastor Kofi and other prominent members of the community organized a ceremony officially handing over the well to the community. It was a Saturday but at least 100 children showed up in their school uniforms. Members of the church came out in their Sunday best. Officials from all over the region came to witness and participate in this joyous ceremony.

Give the chance to say a few words to the community, I wanted to express how grateful we are for all of the support and love we received during our stay. It was common for community members to thank us for all we have given up to travel and dedicate our time to providing their children and town with a clean water source. While speaking to the attendees I told them, “We are grateful for all you have done for us and anything that we have lost or given up has been returned to us 100 fold in the joy, love, experience and friendship we have gained.”

June 9th, 2010

The well system is completely functioning! There are 2 60 foot deep wells and an elevated storage tank in place behind the elementary school. This work was completed before our arrival by Nana Yaw Kwakye’s team. These wells have been hand dug. The men climb down the ladder-less hole using nothing but hand and foot holds dug into the well walls. They then lower a pick axe and a light and begin digging away. Other workers stand on the edges of the well (precariously, I might add!) hauling up the ropes attached to buckets which contain the water and sediment in the bottom of the well. The wells are deep but Mr. Kwakye would prefer a few more feet of depth prior to completion.

We have gone to Konongo to purchase additional supplies to complete the distribution system that will be our addition to the construction project. We will dig 400 feet of trench in which to lay the PVC pipes to 2 different distribution points. We are working with a plumber and mason on Mr. Kwakye’s team. They do not speak much English so we have been using the translating services of our helper Francis.
Once we lay out piping system there will be two spigots located on school grounds for students to access clean water with the turn of a knob.