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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

A Passion for Change

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Milwaukee native Tyanna Clayton Mallet is making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana.Before leaving family and friends to embark on a whirlwind adventure to Ghana, Tyanna received a bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies from Marquette University in 2005. Her passion for change, activism and community-based development has inspired her to create the Adabraka Sanitation Project in Hohoe, Ghana.

What inspired you to join the Peace Corps and travel halfway around the world to Ghana?

Well, I really do value and love community development work. It is very hard work, but it’s the type of work that is filled with hope and forces the person to push harder and find happiness in the little things. When I was 16 years of age, I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana, Senegal and the Gambia with my mother and brother. The trip was free. After making the trip, I said to myself, “I have to come back to Africa for free again.” Thus, I began planning my life out, making sure I found a way to get back to Africa. I started doing my research about the Peace Corps (yes, at the tender age of 16). So, Peace Corps was always in my life plans. I figured that I could travel for free and do what I love to do most, which is community development work.

How did the community receive you? Share with me some of your memorable moments or first impressions.

The community received me with open arms. One of my most memorable moments was when I put a baby on my back using cloth; the women just loved it. The most memorable moments for me continue to be the times where I just sit in one of my community members’ houses and just spend time with them and their kids. The kids are really used to me: I sometimes give them their baths just to help the mothers out and they just hang on me… giving me hugs, and I love it. I treasure the relationships I am building with some of the community members. Being with them continues to be a memorable moment for me. Other memorable moments are when I spend time with some of the young girls. I love it when they open up to me, asking me questions they normally would not ask any other adult. In general, the work I am doing with the youth here (HIV/AIDS clubs) are memorable moments. I just love working with the youth. They keep me wanting to be better.

Tell me a little bit about the Adabraka Sanitation Project. How do you think it will make a difference to the Hohoe community?

Lack of toilets in Adabraka is a huge problem. Often, some residents defecate in a plastic bag and throw the feces by the roadside. Some go into “the bush” and defecate, which aids in the spread of diarrhea. There is a pit latrine, but it’s not safe, there is no privacy, it is a breeding place for flies, and it also aids in the spread of diarrhea. Thus, many houses are without toilets. If these houses are able to have their own toilet, it would greatly improve the overall sanitation problem within Adabraka. It would also encourage other households to have their own toilet. Lastly, having toilets will allow parents, especially the women, to better educate their children about proper sanitation behavior.

What makes sanitation a hot topic for the Hohoe community and why should the rest of the world pay attention?

Poor sanitation is the main reason for the spread of cholera, typhoid, malaria and diarrhea. The major challenge is helping people with behavior change. For example, making sure they wash their hands with soap and water, or making sure they keep their water covered to avoid the breeding of mosquitoes (which spreads malaria). If the sanitation could improve within Hohoe, then many of the residents would be able to stay healthy. Plus, health is important in that, if one is not healthy, then he or she would not be able to go to school, farm and sell goods.

How has the community partnered with the Peace Corps to ensure that the Adabraka toilet project will be sustainable?

The Peace Corps Partnership Program is an avenue for Peace Corps volunteers to help their respective communities fund projects. Thus, I assisted the community with writing a proposal to get funding for the toilets. A major component of the proposal is the community contribution, which, if you read the proposal online, the community contribution is over 50%. The community is ready and willing to put forth the time and effort needed to make the project a success. Also, I am currently training community members in hygiene education so that the project is sustained.

To donate to the Adabraka Sanitation Project or to read more about the Hohoe community, please visit www.peacecorps.gov or e-mail tyannaclayton@yahoo.com.