A visit from Ullo

Zack Saeed of Ullo, Ghana participated in a video and audio interview as part of his visit to the Iowa State campus
Zack Saeed of Ullo, Ghana participated in a video and audio interview as part of his visit to the Iowa State campus

In 2013, the Iowa State chapter of Engineers Without Borders partnered with the community of Ullo in northwestern Ghana in an effort to help the community meet their basic human needs.

The students have made multiple trips to Ullo while planning and implementing a clean water system that allows the people of Ullo easier access to clean water within the community. This project was completed in January of 2019, and more projects are already underway.

While several Cyclone Engineers have had the chance to visit Ullo, until recently, no representative from Ullo was able to make the journey to Ames. This October, with the help of donors through the Iowa State University Foundation’s FundISU program, Zack Saeed, the eldest son of the Chief of Ullo made a visit to Ames and the Iowa State campus.

During his visit, EWB leadership member Michelle Friedmann sat down with Zack and talked about his trip, and the impact this student organization has had on the people of Ullo.

 

Announcer
Welcome to Factor Analysis, an in depth conversation of engineering knowledge from the classroom to the field, and topical issues surrounding work and life from an engineer’s viewpoint.

Travis Ballstadt
Engineers Without Borders is a national organization which works to assist developing nations by implementing engineering solutions, empowering them to build better, stronger and healthier communities. In 2013, the Iowa State chapter of Engineers Without Borders partnered with the community of Ullo in northwestern Ghana in an effort to help the community meet their basic human needs. The students have made multiple trips to Ullo while planning and implementing a clean water system that allows the people of Ullo easier access to clean water within the community. This project was completed in January of 2019, and more projects are already underway. While several Cyclone engineers have had the chance to visit Ullo, until recently, no representative from Ullo was able to make the journey to Ames. This October, with the help of donors through the Iowa State University Foundation’s “Fund ISU” program, Zack Saeed, the eldest son of the chief of Ullo made a visit to Ames and the Iowa State campus. During his visit EWB leadership member Michelle Friedmann sat down with Zack and talked about his trip and the impacts this student organization has had on the people of Ullo.

Michelle Friedmann
Well Zack, I’m so excited to have you here with us today. Yes, and your past few weeks spent at Iowa State. We’re very excited to have you here. Something since I joined Engineers Without Borders as a freshman, five years ago, it’s something that we’ve always kind of talked about as a club, being able to bring a member of the Ullo community over to Iowa State to see what we do over here as a club, and we’ve finally been able to make that happen. So everyone’s very excited that we’re able to bring you. For those of you guys that don’t know, Zack is the son of the chief of Ullo. And he’s been our travel mentor every year that our Engineers Without Borders has gone over to Ghana starting in 2014. We’ve had what is it now like four trips over? And another one starting in December. So we’re very excited to have you here and welcome you and be a part of our organization. Yeah, so today, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the community that you’re from in Ghana. What’s it like? Where is it at?

Zack Saeed
Ullo is the community that I am from, it is in the northern part of Uganda, the Upper East region, the Upper West region, of Ghana. Ghana is divided into regions like US, you have states. So I’m in the Upper West Region of Ghana. And that’s where it was located. Oh, Ullo, it’s a very small community, deprived community. That I am from the chief palace. I am the son of the chief from the royal family.

Michelle Friedmann
You’re the oldest son, correct?

Zack Saeed
That’s correct.

Michelle Friedmann
Next in line for the throne.

Zack Saeed
That’s true.

Michelle Friedmann
Yes. So, um, can you talk about what the Ullo community is like and maybe mentione the senior high school and things like

Zack Saeed
Yeah, Ullo is a small community of about 1500 people with a high school that’s also having a population of 1500. And it’s predominantly a farming community. It’s a deprived community that we have income, daily income rate of about one fifth of $1. That is equivalent to one Ghana cedi, I think so.

Michelle Friedmann
Yeah, it’s about 25 cents

Zack Saeed
A cent, right? That’s cool. So that is the average income in Ullo community. We are peasant farmers. We have small farm groups who don’t do commercial farming there, due to incapacities. So we grow different type of crops, maize, beans, peanuts, tomatoes, okru, pepper, potatoes grown, the white, but not in large quantities, just to feed your families. We also have livestock, goat, sheep, cattle and chicken for domestic consumption. So that is how my community is.

Michelle Friedmann
I think your animals are a little different than we have in Iowa. I know you were telling me yesterday, Zack asked where all the cows were. And we were having beef for lunch.

Zack Saeed
That’s correct, because I came here for about two weeks I’ve not seen a single cow or chicken or a goat running around the street like in my community.

Michelle Friedmann
Yes, I know when I was in your community, we saw chickens and cows and stuff wandering everywhere and we all wondered who they belonged to. They seem to belong to the whole community.

Zack Saeed
No, they roam freely, but we have marks on them. And you can easily identify this chicken belongs to this man because one we just cut off the toe of a chicken. That’s a mark for all his chicken that he ran the community. So if I just see a chicken with that mark, I know it’s for this brother or this sister, because a very small community, we don’t have large community, so it’s identified the goats or the sheep, we just cut out the ear, small small part of the ear, or just make a hole in the ear. That is a unique mark that is identified to me for on my animal.

Michelle Friedmann
So can you talk a little bit about what makes Ullo unique?

Zack Saeed
We enjoy a lot of peace in Ullo, we co-exist, that’s make it a bit unique. And we accept any other person. We co-exist very well with visitors. And it’s a very nice place to be.

Michelle Friedmann
And you guys have a senior high school,

Zack Saeed
We have a high school and it has been there for about 27 years now, I guess and performance were not so good. But that is due to some challenges. The worst hit challenge was water constraints in high school. And also in town. It was a challenge. But that issue, the water problem has been solved by Engineers Without Borders, Iowa State student chapter and we are very grateful that has been one of, that has been the biggest problem in the community.

Michelle Friedmann
Can you talk a little bit about the history of your relationship with Iowa State Engineers Without Borders kind of like where did it began? How did you get…

Zack Saeed
I got in touch with Engineers Without Borders in Ghana when the first travel team came Ullo with my sister Ina. That was my first contact with EWB team. And when they came and saw that they have a vision, and I saw that, at the end of the day it was going to benefit my community, myself and many other I decided to be part of this with the course. And sad to be part of this beautiful family. And today we’ve seen what the result is. We have water flowing in Ullo. We don’t have water problems anymore. Student Enrollment going high in the high school, performance, academic performance at high school, teacher, number of teachers have gone high in the high school. Committee members have time to go to their farms to fetch water. Yes. And have them to do the menial jobs soon as didn’t have time to study so.

Michelle Friedmann
So for people who don’t know, can you talk about what Engineers Without Borders has done in your community that has improved the water situation?

Zack Saeed
What Engineers Without Borders have done in Ullo community, they have improved the water situation that has been deviled the community for such a long time, as they have provided the community with a potable water that is a small town water project that is solar-powered, unique in our, we have a lot of sun, but it’s not harnessed us in this form. The system that they have provided us is solar-powered, and it transport water 1.5 kilometers away to the high school. The boys dormitory, the girls dormitory, the kitchen and other pipes that the students are using. So it’s very helpful to us.

Michelle Friedmann
So what was the water situation like for students at the high school before?

Zack Saeed
It was a huge problem. It was a huge problem because looking at a student population that is almost the same as the community population of 1500, all competing with few bore holes. And the bore holes were always under pressure, 24 hours, midnight, daytime, any point in time in the community any of the bore holes. You will have more than 10 students fetching water. Anytime time of the day, 24 hours. So it was, that’s a huge problem in the community. When we have the water from the system, EWB provided, we saw the Impact is huge. You don’t see students in town anymore. It’s rare to see a student in town. And the academic performance like I mentioned earlier, have gone high because students have time to study. School enrollment has gone high because there are there’s no other problems of parents bringing the awards to the school. Teachers who are not accepting schools, positions into a school. Many teachers have accepted positions into school. So the number of teachers also increased. Bore holes in town that we’re all competing with as students are now free. And they no longer breakdown as they used to break down because there was always pressure on the bore holes, the few bore holes that we have. So one of the bore holes are free, they no longer break down easily. That was cost for us. If you look at the daily average income of one fifth of $1, in a community of that nature. Now the committee members are also relieved. They have time to fetch water down and then go to their farms. So it has been so helpful to us.

Michelle Friedmann
That’s really exciting to hear as a student who had an opportunity to travel to Ullo, to meet the people in the community and the students and to see everyone at Iowa State who works on this project, it’s really exciting to see that we got the water system implemented and the positive impact that it’s having on the students and Ullo. But we’re not done Engineers Without Borders isn’t done yet. We still have lots planned in the future for projects in Ullo. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about what your vision for Ullo in the future is like. Which ways can you see your community succeeding and…

Zack Saeed
I want to see Ullo improve in agriculture, improve in health service, agriculture, we have a very poor land, soil and is negatively impact on our food security in the community. So this change that I’m looking at in the future, we will have improved agriculture system that will improve the the farming potentials of the community. I’m also looking at hello to have a very good health service system that we can easily assess health services. One of the biggest challenge after water is our health systems, which I’m looking forward in the future that we may have a health facility that can take care of our health needs. We lost a couple of students especially those who have severe asthmatic attack. The distance of travel to the next health facility that they can have, they can have a system is far, is Jirapa and St. Joseph’s hospital which is about an hour drive from Ullo. And it is not a tire road, is bush road, is not good. You cannot move more than 40 kilometers per hour, you can only go around 30 sometimes less than that. So we lost a couple of students and community members in trying to get them to St. Joseph hospitals which is the referral point. So I’m looking in the future if we have a health delivery system where we can have people help to save their lives, it would be good for us. That is what I’m lifting we are looking at in the future. Women who are in labor, if they are unable to attend to them or the small clinic that we have there is always a challenge that is also increasing maternal and infant death. Not only in Ullo, but the surrounding communities in Ullo.

Michelle Friedmann
So can you talk a little bit about what Engineers Without Borders has planned in the future in Ullo?

Zack Saeed
Yes, Engineers Without Borders have planned to build a clinic that will be a model site that alleviate the health needs of the community and other surrounding communities, which we are praying and hoping that they should get the needed support to execute this project. It will have an immense benefit to a larger community. Engineers Without Borders is also looking at building stoves for the high school, high school kitchen and also looking at water harvesting, rainwater harvesting that will also be useful, school gardening where the students can use the garden like horticulture type to study and to also get some produce from the garden that can also be used for supplement and feeding. So that is some of the items Engineers Without Borders have planned to do for Ullo community. And I will urge all who are donors, I will urge those who are club members to rally behind the club to execute this important project.

Michelle Friedmann
So kind of switching gears a little bit. Can you talk about what your experience at Iowa State has been like for you?

Zack Saeed
Iowa State my experience has been wonderful. Since I came I have met so many friends everyone has been so friendly to me. Ive had different kind of foods. Environment is different.

Michelle Friedmann
What’s your favorite food then?

Zack Saeed
I’m not very familiar with all the foods that are eating they’re all strange to me. So it’s difficult for me to say this is a favorite one because every day this one is different from this one is different, at that point, when I’m thinking that is very food that I ate is the favorite one, the next food is given a different texture altogether. So all the foods are nice to me, so far I’m yet to discover food I don’t like and what is my favorite?

Michelle Friedmann
So what else have you enjoyed about your experience?

Zack Saeed
Oh my god, I have enjoyed a little friendship, the love and then the kind people have showed toward me is outstanding, it’s outstanding. I felt at home. I felt I’m with my brothers and my sisters. I felt I could talk to anybody without any hesitation. Everybody’s approachable and willing to help. So it’s wonderful been here.

Michelle Friedmann
Can you talk about what you’ve spent your time doing while you’ve been here for the three weeks?

Zack Saeed
I have been very busy. I’ve attend lectures, I have my Iowa State ID.

Michelle Friedmann
Yeah, you have your own ID card now. Ride on the CyRide.

Zack Saeed
Thank you very much. And I attend lectures, attend meetings with various groups. And I have attended important symposium and then meeting friends. It’s been wonderful.

Michelle Friedmann
And you’ll be attending the World Food Prize later.

Zack Saeed
Yes, the World Food Prize. I was privileged to attend the ball game. And I was also privileged to attend the Order of the Knoll, which I happen to meet the president of Iowa State University, Wendy Wintersteen. She’s so cool. She had a lot of time for me and I was very grateful. It was one of the greatest moments here, seeing her at that level, and she came down and have time for me. It was awesome.

Michelle Friedmann
It was awesome. So that’s kind of the end of my questions. Just wondering if you had a final message or anything that you’d like to say.

Zack Saeed
I just want to say thank you to Dr. Dirk Maier, who has been a wonderful friend, and is just too much. He has been so nice to me. He’s a good person.

Michelle Friedmann
Yeah. Well, thank you so much Zack for being here and taking the time to sit down with me and do this podcast. We’ve really enjoyed being able to bring you to Iowa State and having you here and it’s been a really special experience for our club members and Engineers Without Borders, for some of those that don’t get the chance to travel, to Ullo, to be able to interact with a community member, especially someone as important to the project as you are, so I know the club thanks you for being here. And so do I and enjoy the rest of your time.

Zack Saeed
Thank you very much. I will be willing to come here anytime the club will want to be here because I saw that my coming here also have an impact in the club in many ways. I’ve talked to many students,, spoken to classes of more than 208 representations. And I think that it also motivated a number of students to be part of the club. Yeah, so I’m grateful. Being here, and I will not hesitate to come here if the need be.

Michelle Friedmann
Alright, we’ll give you a call.

Zack Saeed
Thank you very much.

Travis Ballstadt
So there you see yet another amazing opportunity for Cyclone engineers to have an impact in the global community, all while using the engineering skills they’re learning in the classroom to make a difference in the lives of others. Thanks again for listening. If you haven’t already done so make sure to click subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and we’ll see you again soon on another episode of Factor Analysis.

Announcer
Factor Analysis is produced by Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. For a list of ways to keep up with the college including more podcasts, social media and apps go to engineering.iastate.edu. Music by Lee Rosevere and use under Creative Commons license.