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Delivering food, shelter, and hope to the poorest of the poor
Jesus says, “But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
As Jesus hung on the cross, blood and water flowed from his side, and in many ways, his Living Water now flows through his Church today. By laying down his life, he gave us a priceless gift — and clearly tasked us to share that gift with others. When we proclaim Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we share the gift of everlasting life and release the eternal fountain of his Holy Spirit within them.
Right now, many poor villagers in southern Kenya feel that need for grace and hope acutely. They yearn for clean, safe water to quench their thirst — to end their physical suffering — and are desperate for the refreshment and restoration only Christ’s Living Water can provide.
As we reflect on this reality and learn more about the specific hardships plaguing many Kenyan families, let us prayerfully consider how we can be a blessing during this holy Lenten season.
Here in the United States, most of us can go to the sink or refrigerator and easily fill our cups, pots and glasses with fresh, clear water, but life is very different for many poor Kenyans. Families struggle to collect enough water to meet their daily needs, and the water they do acquire is often dirty or contaminated. In fact, according to the CIA World Factbook, nearly one-third of Kenya’s population doesn’t have access to any improved water sources.
Instead, many poor families drink from untreated bodies of water — often a stagnant pond or muddy river. These sources are polluted with bacteria, parasites and chemical runoff from neighboring farms. Families spend their entire morning collecting visibly dirty water that will likely make them sick. In addition, they lack the clean water necessary for hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, which could prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.
Joyce Shuaka, a mother of four, lives in Orkung’u village and typically walks more than 12 miles to reach the nearest lake. She says, “I normally pray and ask God to give us water, benefactors who are going to assist us in order to give us good health, safe water for drinking, and for our children at least to have a better life.”
Related: Water for Life in Southern Kenya
Traditionally, women and children are responsible for collecting water each day. To reach their water sources before the line of families gets too long, they often leave their homes while it is still dark outside. They risk their safety as a result. Sexual assault and attacks from wild animals add additional threats to the already difficult search for water.
Gladys Mghoi is helping raise her 13 grandchildren in the village of Mokine, and her family walks nearly two miles to collect water. She describes their struggles: “It is not very safe for me as an elderly person, and so, since there is no alternative, we have to risk our lives. Sometimes because of my weakness, I can fall down because of my age. Sometimes there are also wild animals [such as] hyenas within the area.”
Many villagers must walk miles to reach the nearest source of water, and even if they rise before dawn, there is often a lengthy queue of villagers already waiting to fill their jerricans. The wait can sometimes take hours — especially during dry season, when families must dig into the earth and wait for groundwater to trickle up from the dirt.
Water collection often consumes the villagers’ entire morning, so families struggle to attend Mass and participate in other enriching activities. In addition, children either arrive late to school or attend class irregularly, falling behind in their classwork.
In the village of Tawa, Felista Musau has been appointed to the village water committee. A mother of two grown children, she finally has hope that, through this water project, boys and girls in her community will no longer miss out on life-changing opportunities.
“I would expect to see many more children going to school when they don’t have to wake up in the morning to go for water,” Felista says. “I would also expect that many more would be attending church rather than going to get water from the river.”
The CIA World Factbook reports that about 75% of Kenya’s people earn at least a portion of their income through agriculture. Many of those people rely on their crops for nutrition as well. Tragically, alternating periods of prolonged drought and flooding can destroy a family’s harvest, leaving them with little food or income to speak of.
Without a reliable source of safe water, many villages remain at the mercy of merciless weather patterns — and malnutrition is often the result. The World Health Organization reports that 41% of Kenyan children under age 5 are considered anemic due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Their nutrients are further depleted by frequent bouts of waterborne illness, and diarrheal diseases remain one of the leading causes of death for children under age 5 worldwide.
Gladys loves farming and relies on it for her livelihood. When there is little precipitation, however, her family has little produce to eat or sell. The grandmother says, “When a water project is allowed here, I will be able to do a lot of housework and domestic work. I will be able to do some farming and, therefore, food will be pleasant within my homestead. My children will grow healthy.”
Related: Poverty in Kenya: Addressing Issues of Poverty & Education
At Lent, we pause to remember the Living Water that Christ has extended to us through his sacrifice on the Cross. We also make a concentrated effort to put our faith into action, engaging in specific acts of mercy that make this gift more accessible to our struggling brothers and sisters around the world.
The villagers featured in this blog represent only a small snapshot of the 17 million Kenyans who lack access to clean water. This Lenten season, you can help bless 67,177 people by presenting them with a tangible reminder of God’s grace.
Cross Catholic Outreach is working with Father Fabian Hevi to answer families’ most fervent prayers for clean water. By applying your prayers, fasting and almsgiving to support this lifesaving mission, your family can take part in an unforgettable outreach. You will experience the glorious mystery of Christ’s love and mercy flowing through you to refresh dry communities in urgent need.
Help us honor the Lord’s sacrifice by relieving the physical and spiritual burdens of precious families who are longing to find Water for Life!
Engage your parish in our Lenten outreach to deepen faith and save lives
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2023, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.