As a Saha Winter Field Representative I explored the full spectrum of design. I experienced digital design through crafting a social media fundraising campaign (digital storytelling, visual design, branding, advertising), as well human-centered design by creating a solar charging center in collaboration with a rural village in Northern Ghana.
I spent a month in Tamale, Northern Ghana working with a rural village called Takpili to build a solar charging center.
Through the guidance of Saha Global, my team and I pitched our idea to the chief and elders of Takpili. The chief and elders were happy to collaborate and chose four female community members to run the solar charging center.
Over the next couple of weeks, we worked with the entire village worked together to build the hut to house the charging center. It was an amazing sight - dozens of men, women, and children all participating in different roles to work towards the same goal. Kids helped gather large rocks to be turned into bricks, men crushing a mud mixture with their feet to create bricks to dry in the sun, women coating the hut in cement to keep the rain out.
After building the hut, we taught Lasiche, Mariama, Ayishetu and Rachiya how to wire up the solar panels and generator. They were great students! We explained the basics of account keeping and helped them decide on a price to sell each recharged battery and cellphone charge for.
When then individually spoke to every household in the village (all 80 of them!) about the program. We charged 1 Cedi (33 cents) per household for a lantern (originally $20) and told them about the opening day for the charging center. Every single household we spoke to was happy to participate in the program, even the traveling Fulani (Nomadic traders and cattle herders) on the outskirts of the village.
When the opening day came, we stepped back and watched the women do a wonderful job of running the center - tallying the sales, switching out the old batteries, and charging cellphones. We watched in amazement as one by one households began to light up in the darkness.
Now over 600 people in Takpili have access to renewable light and electricity.
Working in Takpili was an absolutely wonderful experience. I made so many great friends, was humbled by the ingenuity and kindness of locals, and learned the power of entrepreneurship. If after devoting one month to humanitarian efforts 600 people now have access to light and electricity, I can't help but wonder why we not doing efforts like this more often.
As a designer, it's really important for me to feel passionate about and see the tangible results of what I'm working on. I honestly do want to make the world a better place, one design at a time. Which is why for my senior thesis, I'm working to create a humanitarian design firm that focuses on start-ups in developing countries. There's so much genius in untapped areas around the world and if I can use my skills to make at least one company out there better in the world I would love to.
Prior to getting to Ghana, I had to completely fundraise my trip and the supplies for the solar charging center. For this, I created a crowdrise and social media video campaign which was successfully funded within 10 days of launching. I learned the importance of visual design and branding myself and my goal correctly, creating a consistent online presence, and how difficult it can be to convince a random stranger that my cause is worth believing in.
I had to pick up an entire new set of tools to meet this challenge; I learned Keynote for animations and Premiere Pro for video editing within one night.
It was really important to me to be completely honest and genuine to others about my intentions and goals in pursuing this.