During the summer of 2018, two Denison students, Alexandria Seward ’19 and Samantha Price ’20, created a sustainable, community-based water purification center in Ghana that addressed the global water crisis that has disproportionately impacted communities. Along the way, they empowered women in the region to become entrepreneurs.
The inspiration for project came from Seward’s previous experience in the Tamale region of Ghana. Seward had collaborated with Saha Global, a non-governmental organization which has been providing communities in Northern Ghana with access to clean water since 2008. She conducted field research and collected data from local villages and their water sources.
“From her experience, we saw the need to further expand the reach of Saha Global in the area and provide clean water sources to villages which relied heavily on fecally contaminated water,” says Price.
The women did their homework, and with proposal assistance from the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement, their project — “Water for Prosperity: Economic and Social Prosperity through Water Purification in Rural Ghana Country” — was chosen by the Projects for Peace initiative for funding.
Price and Seward were awarded $10,000 to travel to the villages of Kpalkore and Dalibila in the Northern Region of Ghana to expand a water entrepreneurship and purification program through Saha Global.
After the water started flowing, three women from each village were trained in water treatment and finance management for the water center, which now provides clean, safe water for 80 families.
“I always find myself thinking about the village we worked in and the lives impacted by the water treatment center.”
Seward, an international studies and communication major, had never been in a laboratory before this experience, but Saha Global prepared her to train others in water purification. “They taught us how to use all the chemicals and to do the pipette testing,” she says.
While Saha Global assisted with the science, Seward and Price created connections and earned villagers’ trust — including the trust of the chief — as well as trained and assisted the women entrepreneurs.
Their hard work is paying off. “Every time I check in with the women there, we hear that the water is great,” says Seward. “And Saha Global monitors the sites for at least ten years, so the women running the water centers will continue to sustain this on their own.”
Price, a global commerce major with French/economics minors, became interested in this work after taking a course about colonialism and the exploitation of indigenous people. “I was really into the class and realized this is what I was meant to study,” says Price. The Water for Prosperity project was a natural fit for her burgeoning interest.
It’s an experience neither student will soon forget. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what we’ve done in Ghana,” says Price. “I always find myself thinking about the village we worked in and the lives impacted by the water treatment center.”
Projects for Peace was founded in 2007 by the late philanthropist and internationalist Kathryn W. Davis to fund initiatives that build projects for peace worldwide. Denison is one of 96 U.S. colleges and universities from which the initiative solicits applications. “The Davis family and friends believe, like Mrs. Davis did, that today’s youth — tomorrow’s leaders — ought to be challenged to formulate and test their own ideas,” says the Project for Peace website.
Projects for Peace was so pleased with the outcome of Water for Prosperity that they decided to feature it in their most recent annual report as one of 12 exceptional projects.