by Mary Meyers, Diocese of Joliet Missioner, member of the Diocese of Joliet Laudato Si’ Committee, parishioner of St. Jude’s Catholic Church
“Water With Blessings is a movement of justice. Clean water is a basic human right. It is unjust and contrary to the will of God that anyone suffer from a lack of clean water. The resources available could easily rectify that injustice but other powers prevail. Water With Blessings sees equipping, empowering and entrusting women at the level of the least ones as an act of justice.” (Taken from their training manual) Why is it called water with blessings? Clean water is the tangible blessing and compassion is the intangible blessing, the least of our brothers and sisters thirst for both.
The Water With Blessings ministry began as an answer to a particular need in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where patients at an annual medical mission clinic persistently reported health problems resulting from intestinal parasites. A community water purifier and several types of small filters were tried, none of which fulfilled the need adequately. The Sawyer PointONE filter was the answer, found in 2007 by the founders of Water With Blessings. It is simple and inexpensive; reliable (up to 500 gallons of filtered water a day); low maintenance (only requires daily backwashing) and free of any energy dependency or need for new parts.
The program design came next. The program puts the filters in the hands of those most likely to see it through, mothers, and incorporates a ministry model that requires recipients to share their filtering capability with at least three other households for at least six months. Mothers with children under the age of five (those more likely to die from parasitical diseases) apply to be a part of the process and names are chosen by lottery. If they agree to the terms of sharing and maintaining the filter, they attend a 3-4 hour training session that focuses on Gospel spirituality, service to others, health issues and, finally, proper use of the filter system. The filter is attached to a bucket and works on gravity. U.S. mission teams adopt the program as a project to share with people they are visiting. They bring the filters and do the trainings during their visit. The Diocese of Joliet has Water With Blessings communities in Sucre, Bolivia and the Philippines.
What are the results besides clean water? Mothers say that their families experience less, or no more, intestinal problems; women are empowered to take control of the health of their children and/or elders living in the home; and the water women build community by working together. In some cases this newly formed community leads to working together on other community projects.
For every $75 donation Water With Blessings provides a filtration system and training materials to the country specified by the donor. Water With Blessings has communities of water women in 45+ countries and currently there are two large scale campaigns to address particular issues. The Village by Village campaign in Haiti began in November 2017 and is eradicating cholera in that country one village at a time. There is also a campaign to help the people of the Navajo Nation who have been severely affected by the coronavirus.Through the use of the latest technology it is possible to find the sponsored water woman on a donor map. It is also possible to speak with Sister Larraine, the director of Water With Blessings, and advocates of this ministry at their informal Friday Coffee Chat via Zoom. Visit their website for more information and for links to their newsletter and for a Coffee Chat invitation.