The Togolese Republic isn’t a nation many can point out on a map, but it’s one where a Macomb Township woman is changing the lives of some 20,000 people, one water pump at a time.
Peace Corps volunteer Danielle Maisano, 27, is currently stationed in the West African nation of Togo, where she is working with community members to replace broken water pumps in 23 villages.
The new pumps will provide clean water to more than 20,000 villagers and help reduce illness and infant mortality rates.
Maisano, who graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in journalism, has been working in Togo as a health volunteer since June 2011.
“I applied for the Peace Corps right after I graduated from college,” Maisano said. “I wanted to do something that I thought would make a difference and because you serve for two years, I thought that was a good way to really immerse myself in a totally new culture and really get to understand people's needs.”
As a community health volunteer, Maisano works in local schools, with non-governmental organizations and with the local health agents of her village to promote nutrition, disease prevention and family planning.
“Most of the work I do there deals with educating people on how to avoid the major health problems that are prevalent in rural villages like mine,” she said. “The thing is, after spending some time in Togo, I realized that a lot of the diseases are a result of not having a clean water source and that's not something people there have the money or resources to change.”
The Togo Clean Water Project was the result of this realization.
Raising money from the local community and through donations to the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP), Maisano and others are making it possible for villages across Togo to have access to clean water.
And this access could be the difference between life or death.
“In terms of water-borne illnesses, there isn't really much people can do about that if they don't have a clean water source in their villages,” Maisano said. “That's the reason this project will have such a huge impact on the quality of life for people there.”
But this is only one aspect of Maisano’s work.
“Another thing that is difficult there is the lack of access to treatment for diseases,” she said. “A lot of the villages we are trying to help with this project have no hospitals or health facilities. That's why disease prevention is so important, because once people get sick they have a hard time getting access to any kind of treatment.”
With one year of servicebehind her, Maisano's experience has been eye opening to say the least.
“Living conditions in Togo are pretty hard to imagine, especially for people like me who had never lived in a third world country before,” Maisano said. “Having electricity is rare and having running water is even rarer. Most people live in big compounds and entire families share one or two rooms to five people or more.”
But despite this hardship, Maisano said the Togolese people are “some of the kindest people I have ever met” and have truly made her service worthwhile.
“They are hardworking and very inspiring,” she said. “I've met a lot of people who have been very touched by our efforts as Peace Corps Volunteers. I can't tell you how many times people have said to me, 'We know what you gave up to be here and we thank you for that.’”
You can support Maisano’s work by making a donation to the Togo Clean Water Project on the Peace Corps website. The project number is 693-398. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible PCPP donation goes toward a development project.