Community assisted by Global Brigades

Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

This past January, students from Southern’s Global Brigade chapter spent a week in a coastal community in Ghana, known as Ekumpoano, to build bio-digestive toilets and provide public health assistance for families in the area.

“We did a project where we built, bio-digestive toilets for five different families in the community,” said Michael Schindel, the club’s faculty adviser, “where open defecation and lack of sanitation have led to persistent health issues.”

Inside the septic tanks, anaerobic microorganisms and heat, digest waste material resulting in sludge and gas, said Paul Nicholas, vice president of the Global Brigades chapter. The gas is released via a small little pipe off the side of the septic tank, and the sludge builds up over time in the tank.

Through a slanted pipe, waste from a toilet flows into a round septic tank, the liquid then goes through three filter chambers where charcoal, which is covered by gravel, filters the liquid and removes odor.

Finally, after this process is completed, the filtered liquid returns to the earth as clean ground water.

The tank, which can be used by two families, can continue to be used for at least 50 years before it is sealed and a new tank is built, Nicholas said.

During a spring semester, Schindel said the country and service project or “brigade” is voted on by the organization and then fundraised throughout the year.

“This past trip it was $2,025,” said Tori Samatulski, activity chair for the organization.

The total cost covered the price of the airplane ticket to Ghana, the hostel the group stays in, meals and some of the supplies needed to construct the project.

The money was funded through events such as bake sales, said Global Brigades secretary Aileen Pingol.

According to the Global Brigades’ website, the various brigades include public health sustainability, medical treatment, clean water, legal assistance, business assistance, dental care, and engineering projects.

Nicholas said this was his third brigade and seeing the impact they can make on the community is nice.

Schindel said this was his third year with the organization and he is always impressed by the volunteer’s perseverance and hard work.

“It was brutally hot – it was freezing here, but it was miserably hot,” said Schindel, “and we were spending outside, you know, six to seven hours a day, like out in the heat like digging and laying cement and doing this really difficult work.”

Ashley Thammavongsa, president of SCSU’s Global Brigades and fundraising chair, Katie McDermott said they wish people could see how welcoming and beautiful the various countries can be.

“I’ve been on three brigades,” said McDermott, “and every time I go on one my friends and family are like, ‘Why do you want to go to Africa? Why do you want to go to Nicaragua? There’s nothing there.’”

Pingol said when she thought of Africa, she thought of lions. However, she got to see first-hand how developed parts of the continent can be.

“It was like more than livable, it was like somewhere where you could like actually stay and enjoy,” said Pingol. “And I think that like it shouldn’t be something – like hopefully more people are attracted to coming to Africa and like, actually helping out because it was like something we could stay in and it wasn’t as like, as third-world, as they – as I expected.”

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