Thursday, July 31, 2014

Borehole Badness Brings new Beginnings...

Hi Everybody,

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back with the borehole information. Back in June we tried to drill a borehole but unfortunately it was unsuccessful. We drilled 200 feet into the ground but only hit a small pocket of water. This small aquifer wasn’t going to be able to provide water year round. The installers said that the borehole would run dry during the dry season and would only work periodically during the rainy season, depending on how frequently it would be used. 

This is really hard news to hear for myself and the village, but after a small meeting the village decided that they would rather not install a borehole that wouldn’t be able to work year round.
That isn’t the end of the story though.

The company in charge of installing the borehole charges a rate of 60% for unsuccessful borehole drilling, since the main bulk of the work goes into the drilling. That said we have a remaining 40% of the originally borehole request of 5,100 which leaves us with 2,040 dollars to work with. After a discussion with the village we decided that we should do something else with the rest of the money, rather than ask for more to try to drill another borehole that could fail again. The community decided that we would build a rain catchment system for the primary school, thereby at least providing water for the school for half of the year. 

Construction of this has begun and will be finished this week. 

With the completion of the rain catchment system (cost is roughly $500-600) we still have a remaining balance. After another round of meetings it was decided that the rest of the money would be used to buy a new mill for the village. The current mill is owned by a village local who does not allow the women to mill peanuts or shea nuts at his mill because there is extra cleaning involved with milling those things. One of the main ingredients in soup here is peanut butter, made from milled peanuts. Also a main source of income for the women is making shea butter from ground, roasted, and milled shea nuts. The women are not able to add value to their product and are forced to either walk 6 miles (there and back carrying 50 pound loads on their heads) to have their products milled or just to sell it in their raw forms.
Without this mill the women are being held back from being independent. They have asked for help with this project. Since the borehole wasn’t possible they asked if we could help “fill their bellies with food” instead. It seemed like a reasonable request.

I was extremely saddened by the failed borehole but some good can still come from it. I hope that these are acceptable side projects for the left over money to be used. The village was very sad that the borehole didn’t work out and they said that we needed to thank the friends in America for trying to help and that maybe later down the road another chance will come.

Please if you have any questions just email me,
Thanks guys!

Pictures are to follow as soon as I can get reliable internet.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Last week an NGO (Clean water solutions) came to my village and is going to provide a solar charging center. They were here in the village 2 years ago when I was still a fresh new PCV and it's very funny to see them again 2+ years later. I know people's names now, I know the language, I know the culture and traditions, I know Yapalsi. Anyway this was a blast from the past. Hopefully in a week or so the village will have a place where we can charge phones and batteries.

Also, my village loves seeing videos of zoo animals. I took some pictures and video's at the Lincoln Park zoo and they're so amazed that these animals can be caged. I've been showing video's to my family the past two nights and they love them (Planet Earth and Human Planet). I was so reluctant to let them know I had a computer (for fear I would never hear the end of "Please. We want film. Please bring your computer. Please...") but it hasn't been any problem. Currently thinking about Friday and Saturday movie nights at my compound.

So here are some pictures I promised from the last blog post.

Hunting with friends with throwing sticks

How a group of hunters show up in my backyard

With some other PCV's in a boat looking for Hippo's
Making Shea Butter with my women

These things become bottles!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

What have I been doing the past 5 months? A lot.

Back in January and February I began contacting all kinds of borehole people to ask for their help in getting a borehole installed for Yapalsi so we could all have clean water to drink. All information about this can be found at

I spent a lot of time running around my backyard (miles and miles into my backyard, also known as, the bush) hunting for different animals to accompany my family and my own evening meals. I had it in my head I was going to catch a rabbit one day. The best I ever did was a bush mouse.

There was a random week I spent translating for a Chinese man who had been living in the town I go to to buy groceries (Savelugu). He had been living there for almost two weeks and spoke only Chinese. He had there to assemble a machine that a Ghanian man had bought to make soda products. Apparently there had been a language barrier between Dagbanli and Chinese. Enter 3 Ghanian men at my house in Yapalsi at 7pm at night. They came and asked for my services and I vainly hoped that they were confused and it was actually a Japanese man that was here. But they were correct and it was a Chinese mandarin speaking man there. So I spent a week being driven to my market town and I learned a lot about how soda is made. Did you guys know that soda bottles come in little test tube looking things that hot air will be blown into it to shape it into the shape of the bottle? It’s pretty cool.

Then I went home for a month and ran all over America putting a little over 5,000 miles on my Mom’s car  (Thanks Mom!!). I went to South Carolina and met my best friends from college, I went to Utah for a week of backpacking, and then I went to Chicago to meet my boyfriend’s parents. All went well.
Now I’m back in Ghana and I had just gotten back from a Shea Tree Training event held in Tamale (the capital of the northern region). I brought one woman from my village (Sanatu) and I think she really got a lot out of it. The process of making Shea Butter is well known here in Ghana, however the process of making high quality Shea Butter is less known (or practiced). We’re going to have a meeting where she passes on her knowledge to the other women here in Yapalsi.

The borehole grant has been funded so that will be what I will be working on the next few weeks. Some of you have expressed regrets that you were not able to donate before the grant was funded, but let me tell you there will be another chance! The funding may not be sufficient (inflation and unforeseen costs) and I will therefore need to alter the original budget. If and when that happens I will cry out again for all of your wonderful donations that you weren’t able to give yet.

Pictures on the next post. The internet isn't able to upload anything other than text today. 

Friday, December 27, 2013


Merry Christmas!! It’s my 3rd Christmas here in Yapalsi and it went by just like my first one, unnoticed. Haha.  I spent the day peeling cassava and hanging out with my family. How much cassava does it take to feed a family of 10 for a year? I’m not sure but I know it takes more than 10 solid days of peeling from 7am-4pm.  I was only around for 2 of those days because I’ve been down in Accra.\

I was down in Accra to have a medical checkup (I’ve been deemed healthy and happy) and to say goodbye to the last of my fellow colleagues that boarded the same plane for Ghana as I did. It’s strange to think that it’s been 2 years but I’m ready to do a bonus one.

Back up in Yapalsi we started a women’s savings group where every week the women meet and deposit a bit of money in a lock box. The money that is saved can then be given out in the form of loans. This allows the women a way to get loans that they otherwise would not be able to. The woman has a set amount of time to pay back the loan with a small interest. At the end of a term (decided by the women) the women collect their saved money. 

The example I always use to explain the benefit of a savings group is… “There is a peanut farmer. They don’t have the money to buy seeds for this year so they don’t grow any peanuts. That is obviously not good. Now the alternative is that this person takes a loan from their savings group. They use the money to buy and plant the seeds. When the peanuts mature they can sell the extra and pay back their loan while also having peanuts.”

We’ve just had our 9th meeting and my group has managed to save close to 300 cedis (roughly 150 dollars). In truth my group doesn’t seem to be too interested in the loans aspect, but if they are just happy saving than I’m happy. I also think they want to see how the savings go for their first term (decided to be 6 months) before trying anything more risky.

So once again Merry Christmas! 

(It is also once again bush rat season. Tis the season to be happy! I’ve gone from being slightly horrified/scared to eagerly anticipating them. Good or bad?)

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Kids of all ages are allowed to participate... you'd think it would be horribly dangerous however I've yet to see one of them cut themselves in my 2 years. Of course the knives are extraordinarily dull too.

I wrote a blog a few months ago in October about the Muslim holiday back in October so here it is:
Eid Al-Adha

Sala Day! The Feast of the Sacrifice. It’s one of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide. It marks the end of the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. Its a time where my village gets to eat themselves silly. 

My entire village (being Muslim) celebrated Sala day in great style and energy. Lots of rice balls, fufu, and MEAT. Many a goat, sheep, ram, chicken, rabbit, and 1 cow met their end Oct. 16th in Yapalsi.  Everybody got to eat meat and sharing the same diet as my village I was (nearly) as excited as my 10 year old sister to be getting some meat. It’s been a long while.

There was drumming and dancing with no alcohol. It was just pure old traditional celebration. It was great. Two other people came to Yapalsi to attend, one was a PCV at a deaf school nearby and another a JICA volunteer living at a veterinary college 8km away from my village. I think the two of them got their fill of local festivities!

I’m really enjoying hanging out in village.