ESTHER SHITTU ’17
Winter Vacation. A time when most people are glad the stress of the fall season is over. While many Trinity students spend time with their family and friends throughout the break, Miriam Atuya ’16 decided to something else– pump water. Atuya is a member of the African Development Coalition (ADC) at Trinity. During one of the ADC’s meetings, she met Kate Clopeck who came to speak with the group about her organization called Community Water Solutions.
Kate Clopeck and Vanessa Green, both engineers, began water solutions when they became aware that Ghana’s water problems are not due to lack of technology but from inability to meet basic needs. They created Community Water Solutions in 2008 with the goal of “empower[ing] women to launch sustainable water businesses.” This program also benefits society and is structured to give women empowerment in their patriarchal societies. This project opens up employment opportunities for women who need a job, or a second source of income. Using their Massachusetts Institute of Technology education to launch the program, Clopeck and Green have seen nothing but success in their project.
After hearing about Community Water Solutions, Atuya knew that it was something she wanted to get involved in. She states, “I am interested in [the] social innovations in Africa and their roles toward development, both economically and environmentally.” Atuya was also drawn by the program’s effort to provide employment for the women in Ghana. Having done an internship in Aerobe for safe affordable healthcare, working with Community Water Solutions aligned right along with her interests.
However, due to the costs of the program she needed to fundraise. She planned to ask for small donations from people and slowly gather the required amount. However, having heard about the program only a month before it began, fundraising proved to be a challenge. She says, “In addition to just putting up an online site and asking people to donate, I also reached out to departments in Trinity that shared a similar mission…it helped quite a lot in fundraising.”
Prior to going to Ghana, Atuya had some expectations. “Having done… community development work prior to Trinity and even after coming to Trinity… I thought it [would] be challenging but it turned out pretty well.” After arriving in Ghana, she was given the opportunity to man a project where they would be testing the dirty water in the dug-out and cleaning it. This was all part of a process to ensure that residents had clean water to use. To do this, the participants of the program also trained two women, who had been selected by the community, on how to maintain the water clean.
From this experience, Atuya believes that, “The most important thing is stepping into the shoes of the women and seeing what they’re doing. You’re able to achieve a greater cause if you actually step into someone’s shoes as opposed to viewing them from an outside angle.” While in Ghana, Atuya had the opportunity to fetch water and try to place it on her head, which seemed easy, but she quickly found it was not.
Experiencing the struggle that women in Ghana face of fetching water walking a mile or two away from their homes and having with it, proved to be a powerful moment for Atuya.
When the program came to an end, Atuya felt happy but sad. The project had been a success and the women she had worked had taken a special place within her life. She also came to highly admire the intelligence of the women who she had trained to keep the water clean. Having only been in Ghana for three weeks, Atuya was surprised at all the special connections she had managed to create in the short time period. However, knowing Atuya, being back at school will not keep her from fulfilling her goals and plans, instead she will do whatever she can to make sure others are obtaining the resources they need.