EWB-RHIT Implements the Substructure for the Second Latrine

In August of 2016, we traveled to the village of Gomoa Gyaman , Ghana for the fourth time since 2013. Our travel team consisted of six students, Camille Blaisdell, Rachel Broughton, Louis Campbell, Emily Haussmann, Andy Rhine, and Dhruv Vora, our technical mentor Jed Holt, and our faculty mentor Dr. Daniel Tetteh-Richter. On previous trips, we constructed one latrine and communicated with village elders to formulate a design to meet Gomoa Gyaman’s needs as serve as a source of pride. During this trip, we completed the substructure of the second latrine in the village. We also completed the superstructure of the first latrine since time restraints kept last spring’s travel team from finishing. The community, with the supervision of the team, painted the latrine and finished installing the plumbing, stall doors, and some aesthetic features.

Upon arrival, the team was set back two days due to unexpected issues with pit excavation. The community did not dig a stepped excavation but rather left the team with a vertical-walled pit and piles of earth to the side that posed a safety risk. However, within two days’ time, the team and local community modified the excavation to improve the safety of the worksite, allowing construction to begin as planned. The team constructed all parts of the substructure using concrete and rebar in some form, following the construction process of the last build closely with a few alterations. Rather than using a neat excavation method, the footings were formed above the pit bottom since the ground in Gyaman is difficult to dig out. The team poured the interior and exterior walls separately in order to reuse the wall forms and decrease the volume of each pour.

Substructure In the Works

Meanwhile, the first latrine remained nominally complete but not quite ready for use. Our previous team only stayed for a week and thus didn’t have the time to finish all the details of the latrine, such as hanging all the doors. The community also decided to add such amenities to the latrine as a privacy wall, a tiled floor, and painted walls. As a result, the travel team and community leaders decided to complete the first latrine while the team was in town. Although the team helped coordinate the work at this site, most of the effort was community driven and financed. Ultimately, everyone helped put the final touches on the first latrine and the community held an opening ceremony the last day of the travel team’s stay.

Along with gaining engineering experience, the travel team grew through personal understanding of communication and life skills. One of the major obstacles the team had to overcome was the language barrier. Rural Ghanaians often speak local languages rather than English, so communication with them depends greatly upon body language, hand signals, and a few choice English words. Although this type of communication can be frustrating, we learned to keep a positive attitude regardless.

Currently, we plan to construct the second latrine’s second superstructure in the next year, and further assess Gomoa Gyaman’s needs that can be met by our engineering skills.

EWB-RHIT begins new project in Gomoa Gyaman, Ghana

Having finished our program in the Dominican Republic (which included the construction of a septic system and retrofitting an existing building with a hurricane proof roof to increase the quality and quantity of care provided by a  medical clinic, as well as constructing latrines in a disease-ridden community nearby), our next program, starting this summer, will be in a brand new community. We will be returning to Ghana, this time to the community of Gomoa Gyaman, about 50 miles from our previous program in Obodan where we constructed a brooder house and a community center.  Everyone is very excited about the prospects of this collaboration and we can’t wait to see what working together over the next 5 years will lead to!

The Gomoa Gyaman community has about 5,000 indigenous citizens and over 100,000 in the surrounding region. The community is primarily agrarian and has no major public infrastructure except for a school, church, and public market square. They lack key infrastructure that will help them realize their mission to provide opportunities for development for the community members. The elders, in conjunction with the traditional leaders and Gomoa Gyaman Youth Association, have concluded that four public latrines strategically located throughout the community will curb the health and environmental hazards of improper disposal of human waste.

Sanitation is critical to the welfare of this community and the provision of compost latrines will go a long way to improve the health of the community as a whole as well as provide fertilizer for their crops. A healthy community will lead to more productive citizens and improve the wealth of all.  Other possible future projects with this community include a solar-powered library, a senior secondary school, and a health clinic which would further augment the health and education of community members.

While this is a large undertaking, with a bigger scope than all of our previous projects, this collaboration will lead to a great experience for both parties.  In order for this to be successful, we need your support.  Traveling to Ghana costs roughly $1,600 per person, and in order to maximize the number of students who can benefit from this great opportunity to travel and work with people from a very different culture than their own, extra fundraising is necessary.

Our preliminary budget estimates that the upcoming assessment trip will cost roughly $13,900, allowing 6 students and our professional engineering mentor to travel to the community to learn about the community and their greatest needs, as well as to collect the necessary technical data relating to the design of the compost latrines.