I awoke this morning to the sing-song voice of my cell phone. It was Hammad. “Do you think you can come to my shop before going to town?,” he asked in a slightly desperate tone. “Yes, of course. Is everything okay?” I asked curiously. “Everything is okay. I would just like to see you and David before town.” he responded mysteriously. With posters, closing ceremony programs, masks, liquid soap, certificates, gifts, video camera and much curiosity in tow, we arrived at his shop slightly out of breath. Upon seeing us, Hammad stood up from his sewing machine and disappeared for a moment behind a changing curtain. When he emerged, he proudly dangled two beautifully designed garments in front of us. “These are for you. I made them in the colors of The Zongo Water Project,” he explained.
Without having even measured us, the outfits fit perfectly. “Thank you so much Hammad. These are just beautiful. How did you ever find the time?” I asked completely dumbfounded.
Upon our arrival to town, Dave and I received many compliments on our much improved look. “Are you newly weds returning from your honeymoon?” one woman asked. “Looking nice!” a Zongo community member added with full approval. When Awal and Yusuf saw us, they exclaimed to Dave, “Wow, you’re looking sharp. You should wear that on the first day of your new job when you get back to Boston!”
Similar to when we arrived for the sanitation exercise the week before, almost all the preparation details had already been taken care of before we arrived. The tents were up, the chairs neatly stacked in a corner, and the students were ready and eager to receive their masks for the play.
Though the order and content of the ceremony was remarkedly analogous to other years - opening and closing prayers with drumming, speeches, distribution of certificates, refreshments, an exhibition in between, what was different this year was the participation. We must have had over 300 residents present. Adults who couldn’t find seats stood behind the sea of full chairs craning their necks to see and children sat perched on rock and wood piles around the tent. Hammad sidled up next to me. “You see? This year is different. They have come in their numbers. We even need to make this a two-day program next year,” he joked.
After my speech during which I outlined the mission of the project, what we had accomplished so far, and next steps in the planning process, the students presented their play on sanitation. And, despite my nervousness about whether they would show up, remember their lines, and project their voices, it was a huge hit - the audience, especially the other children, laughed almost the entire time and even the students acting in the play couldn’t help but grin as they articulated their words into the old land line phone acting as a microphone. Following the play, we distributed dust bins to each of the Zongo schools, certificates for the participants of the soap-making and business development workshops, and small gifts to each of the Zongo Water Committee members.
What was personally most touching part of the program was when the Chief Wangara, paired with a many kind words about the project, presented me with a “citation” from “The Office of the Sarikin Zongo Cape Coast.” It read, This is to express my deepest appreciation for your desire to see improvements in the Zongo Community and creating the necessary enabling environment needed for accelerated business and economic growth. Your painstaking effort by dint of handwork and dedication, in collaboration with the Zongo Community established the Zongo Water Project through which the following skills and services have been realized: provision of roofing sheets for the needy, rainwater conservation, training and manufacturing of soap products and other allied skills including business development workshops and sanitation. In recognition of the above dedicated and sacrificial effort which started way back in 2008, I, on behalf of the entire Zongo community present you the above citation. May the Almighty Allah (God) bless you abundantly.