Ghanaian Rotary member has been volunteering in the Rotary-USAID WASH partnership for the past decade.
John Michael Appiah-Acheampong, a social work consultant from Accra, Ghana, first joined Rotary through his local Rotaract club in the early 2000s before joining the Rotary Club of Accra-Legon. A veteran of the Rotary-USAID water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) partnership since its inception in Ghana in 2009, he continues to bring his passion for volunteering to do WASH work. We sat down with him to learn about the WASH advocacy work he does within the partnership.
How is this work different from a WASH project you might do at your club?
Before we got involved in this partnership, most clubs would do a project where they go into a community, do needs assessments, then go and drill a borehole and get out. The Rotary-USAID partnership program allowed constant, continuous and longer-term involvement of the club in the same communities.
With the partnership, clubs are understanding that it’s not just about drilling a borehole, but it’s also about the software: the education and user engagement that empowers communities to sustain the investments we put in. It’s about making sure that everybody in the community understands why there is a need for money to be collected, why there should be a bank account, why accounts should be maintained by the community, why they should be able to sustain it.
In the early days, advocacy wasn’t a component of the partnership. How did it evolve?
We realized the only way our efforts were going to be sustainable was if we invested time in the training of communities and also engaged the district and municipal local government institutions and decision-makers. This way, we can ensure that everyone fulfills their roles and responsibilities and systems are put in place to guarantee WASH systems operations and maintenance and sustainable delivery of WASH services. Since most Rotary members in the program do not have a background in advocacy, some resources were actually invested in training us. Experts were brought in to run us through how to go about doing effective WASH advocacy work, as well as developing measurable indicators to track the impact that we are making.
As a result of the relationships and dialogue we have established, we have more buy-in from the district and municipal governments and the communities in the program.
What does advocacy work look like on the ground?
Advocacy work takes place all over. In the communities, it’s engaging with the water and sanitation (WATSAN) committees, local chiefs, district assemblies and district executives. With the government, we push for changes in the way things are done and also get their buy-in on the projects that we do. We Rotary members as volunteers can’t always be in the field, so a big part of advocacy is involving communities, WASH promoters and district officials closely enough so that they take charge of their roles.
Interview by Joseph Derr