According to the United Nations, billions of people still lack safe water, sanitation and handwashing facilities. 785 million people globally still lack even a basic drinking water service—that’s over two times the United States population. A lack of clean water affects nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide, the majority of which live in isolated rural areas and spend hours every day walking to collect water for their family.
Water scarcity prevents many children, especially girls, from receiving an education. Because sources of water are limited, it takes a long time to find and retrieve water. Not only does walking for water keep children out of school, it takes up time that parents could be using to earn money.
Walking long distances to collect water doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is clean. It often carries diseases that can make everyone sick. Water contamination leaves many people at risk for life-threatening illnesses such as typhoid, malaria, diarrhea, cholera and malnutrition. Most of the diseases that stem from unclean water are completely preventable if people have safe, clean drinking water.
Since the inception of ASEC’s Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program in 2007, Catholic Sister alumnae have use the skills they’ve learned to secure more than $16.5M for projects that impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
What many people don’t know, however, is that nuns in Africa are writing grants and raising funding to support clean water projects in their communities. In fact, as of 2019, over $1 million of the funding acquired by SLDI alumna is for projects related to clean water and sanitation (SDG6).
Here are some clean water projects spearheaded by Catholic nuns in Africa.
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Filtered water project in Kumasi, Ghana
With a lack of adequate water sources, the people of Kumasi, a heavily populated city in southern Ghana, had no choice but to drink whatever water they could find. Contaminated drinking water caused a major cholera outbreak, threatening the lives of thousands living in this community.
The urgent need for clean water sprung SLDI alumna Sr. Mary Lucy Afful, SSL and the Sisters of St. Louis into action. They initiated the “Louisville Filtered Water Project,” providing 13 schools and thousands in the community with clean drinking water. The project uses water treatment systems to filter and chlorinate the water, making it safe to drink.
Through skills she learned in ASEC’s SLDI program, Sr. Mary Lucy secured grants to fund the water project, forming a reliable committee, obtaining proper licenses and creating 4 jobs. Because of the Sisters of St. Louis, there hasn’t been a single cholera outbreak in Kumasi since the project began. Many girls now have the opportunity to go to school instead of spending time collecting water.
Rehabilitating a damaged borehole in Jos, Nigeria
In Jos, Nigeria, the Sisters of Our Lady Fatima lacked access potable water at their training house. As an alumna of ASEC’s SLDI program, Sr. Rose Katung, OLF learned the skill of grant writing and attempted to write funders to support her borehole project. But, writing a successful grant came with many challenges… and negative responses. Sr. Rose nearly gave up.
"I didn't know that I could do it! [ASEC Country Director] Sr. Clementina kept on encouraging me that I am successful even when I receive a negative response; it shows that my effort is not a waste."
Through her perseverance, Sr. Rose was finally able to get the funding she needed.
She hired professionals to determine whether a new borehole could be drilled. Unfortunately, distance and rocky terrain got in the way. But Sr. Rose didn’t give up. She called in an engineer, who determined that an existing, damaged borehole could be rehabilitated. The hard work and persistence of all those involved paid off! Now, the Sisters of Our Lady Fatima are overjoyed by their precious gift of potable water.
Water bottling project in Nairobi, Kenya
It’s estimated that 75-90% of children on the streets of Kenya are boys. As Director of Ukweli Home of Hope in Nairobi, Sr. Catherine Wanza, LSOSF does her part to provide homes for as many of these street boys as possible.
Sr. Catherine attributes many of her skills to the mentorship she received from SLDI alumna and fellow Little Sister of St. Francis (LSOSF), Sr. Anisia. Through her mentorship, Sr. Catherine learned how to raise funds and generate income to support the 25 boys living at Ukweli Home.
One of her projects is the Ukweli Oasis drinking water bottling project, which sells bottled water to the local community. Sr. Catherine is confident that the project will eventually enable Ukweli Home to become financially independent.
To prepare for the growth of her project, Sr. Catherine has sent several of the older street boys to university to learn business skills. Upon graduation, she wants the boys to run the factory. Sr. Catherine hopes that as the business grows she will be able to move Ukweli home to a larger location, where she can house 70 street boys at a time.
Running water for a hospital in Kasina, Malawi
In Malawi there are frequent power outages, which adversely impact the delivery of many services. Some of the most potentially dangerous consequences of these power outages can affect hospitals and health centers, where people’s lives depend on running water, viable vaccines, lab tests and proper functioning of healthcare equipment. SLDI alumna Sr. Stella Ovientaoba, MMM, frequently witnesses the effects of these outages at the Kasina Health Centre in Dedza district in the central region of Malawi.
To address this ongoing challenge, she used skills learned in SLDI to creatively problem solve and wrote a grant proposal for a solar power backup system for the health center. She adds,
“The management, staff, and the people of Kasina Community are immensely grateful to Hilton Foundation for giving us this opportunity to achieve our goal of being able to aptly carry out diagnosis, provide treatment and all necessary services, without delay, in a safe and hygienic environment.”
Across Africa, Sisters are using the skills they’ve learned in ASEC’s programs to improve the lives of those they serve. There are so many alumnae projects addressing clean water, that we are unable to even list them all. Learn more about Sisters’ impact in Africa by reading more alumnae success stories and how they address the SDGs that are most important to you.
Sisters are the workforce of the Catholic Church... yet over 80% of the 40,000 religious women in sub-Saharan Africa are in dire need of training and education.
These women dedicate their lives to social and human development and with your support to receive an education they will be far more effective in their service efforts. Providing educational opportunities enable Sisters to design new paths to make their congregations and their communities more self-sufficient so that they can thrive over the long term.