the opening ceremony [august 3, 2014]

*Note: I would like to extend a special thank you to water committee member, Awal Muhammad, for the photographs he took during the ceremony - many of which are included below. I would also like to clarify that I have received permission from the residents whose names are mentioned in this journal.

“Today is Friday. Today is Friday.” Hammad reiterated smiling as we greeted each other in the Zongo this morning.

By 2:30, the eighty plastic chairs we had carefully placed in a U-shape around the exhibition were all occupied – the women sat in the middle and the men flanked either side. We had more participation at this year’s opening ceremony than even last year’s closing ceremony – “This is a good sign,” I had whispered to Hammad and Saied sitting next to me. The program moved smoothly and quickly from “opening prayers” and “the purpose of the gathering”, to the introduction of the chairman and the chairman’s response. After my own speech which reminded the audience of what we had done last year and what we were planning to do this year (10 more rainwater collection systems, an additional system for the community center, soap-making business workshops, and sanitation planning), an energy unlike I had seen yet erupted from the crowd and the members of the water committee as the question and answer session began.

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the opening ceremony

SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2014 AT 04:26AM

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*Note: I would like to extend a special thank you to water committee member, Awal Muhammad, for the photographs he took during the ceremony - many of which are included below. I would also like to clarify that I have received permission from the residents whose names are mentioned in this journal.

“Today is Friday. Today is Friday.” Hammad reiterated smiling as we greeted each other in the Zongo this morning.

By 2:30, the eighty plastic chairs we had carefully placed in a U-shape around the exhibition were all occupied – the women sat in the middle and the men flanked either side. We had more participation at this year’s opening ceremony than even last year’s closing ceremony – “This is a good sign,” I had whispered to Hammad and Saied sitting next to me. The program moved smoothly and quickly from “opening prayers” and “the purpose of the gathering”, to the introduction of the chairman and the chairman’s response. After my own speech which reminded the audience of what we had done last year and what we were planning to do this year (10 more rainwater collection systems, an additional system for the community center, soap-making business workshops, and sanitation planning), an energy unlike I had seen yet erupted from the crowd and the members of the water committee as the question and answer session began.

Clasping his coca cola dripping in condensation in one hand and gesturing with the other, one man asked how we would get the initial capital for the soap-making and even more importantly, how would we sustain it. Other concerns also arose such as the need to more effectively inform the community about the activities and events, whether the community might be able to provide a small place for a sanitation office, and where we could do the soap-making in the community so as to not need to travel all of the way to Heritage House. In response to this last question, the Chief Wangara suggested that he would be pleased if the community center could be used for this very purpose and that we as the water committee should talk with the soap-maker to see if it would be suitable. Women also stood up and announced how they had benefited from last year’s soap-making. One resident also added, “Last year we learned the bar soap and the powdered one. Is it possible to learn the third one, the liquid soap this year?” Unlike previous years in which the response had always been somewhat subdued and contained, questions, suggestions, and ideas ricochetted from one side of the tent to another with every member of the water committee eagerly responding. At the end of the day after passing out rainwater collection system applications and photographs with all of the attendees, the committee, still in deep discussion under the collapsing tent, suggested we reconvene tomorrow afternoon to discuss next steps.

A satisfied Hammad turned to me and summed up the afternoon,

“They are all very, very excited. They have even taken the project out of us.”