Father Fabian Hevi helps a little girl at the water kiosk in Tawa, Kenya

Kenya’s Water Crisis and the Impact on Catholic Faith

When you stop to think about the water crisis affecting certain African countries, what are some of the first things that come to mind?

Thirst?

Waterborne diseases?

Withering crops?

All of those are accurate depictions because dehydration, disease and food insecurity are among the most immediate dangers facing families lacking clean water — but there are additional issues you may not have considered.

For example, Africa’s water scarcity is also creating a spiritual void for the many men, women and children who are struggling to secure safe water each day.

In countries such as Kenya, families are fighting for their faith as they wage this battle against water scarcity. By working together as the Church, we can quench their thirst with clean water and strengthen the faith of our fellow Catholics, restoring their hope in Christ.

Pauline Simao collects water at stream in Mokine, Kenya
Before receiving help through Cross Catholic Outreach and Good Samaritan Water Sanitation Services, Pauline Simao would draw water from muddy streams. Women in her community of Mokine spent so much time searching for adequate water that they had little time for Mass or other important activities.

The Water Crisis and a Crisis of Faith

When a community lacks access to clean water, families often spend the majority of their time seeking something they can drink, cook with, and bathe in — even if it comes from a contaminated source. Water is typically the first thing on their minds in the morning. Women and children must wake early to reach distant bodies of water before the line of families grows too long. Sometimes, during the dry season, they must even take the time to dig deep holes in dry riverbeds and wait for muddy water to seep up from the ground.

This exhausting chore can take hours — and a family will likely need to repeat the process at least once or twice more to meet their needs for the day. Children arrive late to school or miss class altogether, and participating in parish activities is often out of the question. Many mothers express their desire to attend Mass, pray with their families, and send their children to Sunday school, but the all-consuming quest for water leaves little time for spiritual formation.

Consider the hardships faced by Pauline Salo. She lives in a small community within the Diocese of Machakos, Kenya. Pauline is a hardworking subsistence farmer and a Catholic mother of three, but water scarcity often prevents her from doing the things she would love to do. With easy access to abundant water, she would be able to produce a better harvest to feed her family, prepare her children for school on time, and worship God in the way she has always wanted.

“I’m a Catholic, and in our mission, we usually have morning Mass, which starts at 7 a.m.,” Pauline shared. “I’m not able to attend because when I wake up early in the morning, I cannot get even the time for going to church. Therefore, it’s our cry — if something can be done — to get water. [Then] at least other women like myself can have time to go to church and worship in the morning.”

Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde and Father Fabian Hevi pray with community members to bless the new water system in Orkung’u, Kenya
His Excellency Martin Kivuva Musonde, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Mombasa, joined Fr. Fabian to bless the water system in Orkung’u, Kenya.

How Cross Catholic Outreach Partners Are Strengthening Faith

Community parishes want to relieve the burden on the families they serve. They want to strengthen local Catholics like Pauline and provide them with valuable spiritual formation while also reaching out to share Christ’s mercy with people of other faiths. However, these local Catholic leaders also understand the heavy strain that water scarcity places on poor families. Many priests long to provide tangible relief in addition to spiritual ministry — to reach out with practical support and let struggling families know that God sees their urgent need for water. But these small parishes do not have the resources to address the water crisis, and they often feel powerless to create change in their communities. That’s why Cross Catholic Outreach collaborates with partners like Father Fabian Hevi, a priest with the Society of African Missionaries and the founder of Good Samaritan Water Sanitation Services. In partnership with us, Fr. Fabian has been able to provide quality water systems for 43 communities since 2013 — and he does it all by working closely with local parishes. From the moment when Fr. Fabian first enters a community in need of water, he begins building a relationship with the local priest, and the parish plays a role throughout the planning and construction process. Some of its responsibilities include: By working through parishes in this way, Fr. Fabian empowers his fellow priests to spearhead transformation in their communities. Families are extremely grateful for this support, and once the water projects are complete, many Catholics finally have time to participate actively in their local parishes. Non-Catholics, too, are often deeply moved by the Church’s support and turn back to give God praise. Fr. Fabian explained that the completion of a water project generally coincides with a marked increase in church attendance. “Priests call thanking you, saying, ‘You can’t imagine how many people are attending Mass!’” Fr. Fabian shared.
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Youth tending community onion farm in Marungu, Kenya
Thanks to the new water system in Marungu, Kenya, the local parish was able to start a community onion farm. This project engages the youth and teaches them valuable skills.

Sharing the Corporal Works of Mercy Through Water

As Catholics, we are called to share our faith by engaging in the corporal works of mercy. When we work with partners like Fr. Fabian to provide clean water in poor communities, we are clearly fulfilling Christ’s commission to give drink to the thirsty, as iterated in Matthew 25:35. But because water scarcity impacts almost every category of life, we believe that providing water relief allows us to engage in other works of mercy as well.

These include:

  • Feeding the hungry: With reliable sources of water, families who rely on small-scale farming and animal husbandry finally have enough water for their crops and livestock. After gaining a water system, many parishes even start community gardens and other agricultural projects to engage the youth and improve food
  • Sheltering the homeless: Construction projects require water for tasks such as mixing cement. Water systems allow communities to consider much-needed improvement projects, such as repairing crumbling homes and schools.
  • Visiting the sick: Waterborne diseases run rampant in communities that lack safe water. Families often drink from murky, contaminated streams or shallow, hand-dug wells that are filled with bacteria, parasites, insect larvae, animal waste and various other pollutants. Clean water systems put an end to painful waterborne illnesses, restoring health to entire communities.
  • Giving alms to the poor: Whenever you donate to improve the lives of those in need, you are giving alms to the poor — but by giving the gift of water specifically, you ensure that your charitable giving will bless lives for many generations to come. Free from the constant search for water, children finally have time to study and attend school, and parents are empowered to focus on income-generating activities. The gift of water unlocks important opportunities that could set families free from poverty.

By providing safe water and expressing our faith through intentional works of mercy, we can bolster the faith of our neediest brothers and sisters, offering integral support to meet their deepest material and spiritual needs!

Four men ordained as priests in Bura, Kenya
During the commissioning ceremony for the new water system in Bura, Kenya, four young men were ordained as priests. An additional four were ordained as deacons.

Give Clean Water. Strengthen Catholic Faith.

Psalm 42:1 reads, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

In communities that lack clean water, many of our Catholic brothers and sisters are longing for an opportunity to deepen their faith. The search for water has dominated their time for too long, stealing precious opportunities for families to worship with other believers.

There are also those who do not yet know the love of Christ — but they thirst for clean water and the touch of God’s grace just the same. About 20% of Kenya’s population identifies as Catholic, and the Church wants to reach many more families with the life-transforming message of the Gospel. But how are these men, women and children to receive Christ as their Living Water when they cannot even find clean water to drink each day?

By standing with ministries like Fr. Fabian’s, we can eliminate the burden of water scarcity and strengthen Catholic leaders in poor Kenyan communities. We can fortify the faith of our fellow Catholics and reach many thousands of people with a tangible reminder of God’s love. By sharing the corporal works of mercy through the gift of clean water, we can build our own faith through obedience to Christ and show suffering families that the Lord cares about their needs.

Please — stand with Cross Catholic Outreach to quench thirst and encourage hearts toward Christ. Your donation today will fill cups with clean water and create a priceless opportunity for faith to arise!

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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, 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.