People in Sagalla, Kenya, gather around water tower
Residents of Sagalla, Kenya, gather to bless their new water system and give thanks.

Building a Bright Future With Clean Water in Kenya

For decades, Kenya’s water crisis has created harsh challenges, claimed lives, and kept poor families trapped in a cycle of poverty. Last fall, our Water for Life campaign asked donors to take part in an urgent mission that would bless 151,970 people with clean water. Thanks to their compassionate action, 15 new water systems are now transforming lives in southern Kenya!

A Kenyan girl collects water from a muddy river.
Felicia Ndunge, 14, used to collect water from this muddy river in Kamtonga, Kenya. Today, her community has clean water because of friends like you!

Kenya’s Water Crisis and the Impact on Young Lives

As Father Fabian Hevi made his way toward Kishushe, Kenya — a community in the Archdiocese of Mombasa — he encountered a group of young people he will never forget. One young woman and three young men trudged toward him, urging a team of six donkeys forward along the dusty road. The donkeys were saddled with large, yellow jerrycans (often used for holding water), and the people carried containers as well.

Fr. Fabian was not initially surprised by the encounter because women and children are often seen walking along Kenya’s rural roads in search of water. But when he stopped to speak with the young people, their stories made his heart sink. All four had dropped out of school, surrendering the life-transforming benefits of an education because collecting water had become their higher priority — an absolute necessity for them and their families.

For these young people, the nearest water source was 10 miles away, and the tedious task of water collection required hours of toil each day, leaving them little time or energy for school. They had grown up fighting an exhausting battle just to quench their thirst, and the priest grieved to see that those hardships were also robbing them of a future by ending their educational progress.

This is a common crisis in the Archdiocese of Mombasa and the neighboring Diocese of Machakos. There, many children have had to make the terrible trade-off between schooling and survival. Some still attempt to remain in school, but because they must rise early and walk miles on weary roads in search of water, they often miss classwork as a result. Painful waterborne diseases also prevent these children from attending classes regularly, so they fall far behind in their studies. Many discouraged young people eventually give up, abandoning their education and forfeiting their best path out of poverty.

Kenya Key Stats

  • Population: 54,685,051, the 27th most populous country in the world.
  • Water: Nearly 1 in 3 people lack access to clean water sources.
  • Agriculture: Nearly 3 in 4 people work at least part time in the agricultural sector.
  • Poverty Rate: More than 36% of the population earns less than $1.90 per day.
  • Life Expectancy: 69 years, a decade less than the life expectancy in the United States.

Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Bank Group

Donate to Provide Clean Water

A Kenyan boy on bicycle.
A boy in Kamtonga, Kenya, prepares to load his bicycle with containers of clean water. He will no longer have to travel far to quench his thirst!

U.S. Catholics Fund 15 Clean Water Systems

Hear from the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya & South Sudan and watch a water pump blessing!

Last fall, we asked donors to take part in an urgent mission to fight Kenya’s water crisis by providing communities with high-quality water systems. Thanks to their generous response, seven communities in the Archdiocese of Mombasa and eight communities in the Diocese of Machakos now have easy access to safe, refreshing water. This generation’s children will no longer need to choose between water, education and other critical activities. They will grow up healthier, happier and with greater hope for the future because friends like you changed their lives with clean water!

Fr. Fabian emphasized the spiritual significance of this gift, saying, “Christ has lifted our burdens, so we share his mercy with others by lifting their burdens too. We give the gift of clean water, and soon they come to understand it is his Living Water that brings eternal life. … By giving safe water, you have sown seeds of abundant life that will grow a blessed harvest for the Kingdom of God. May our Lord bless you many times over for bringing him glory.”

Since 2013, we have worked with Fr. Fabian to install 27 water systems in the northwestern Diocese of Lodwar and 31 water systems in the southern Diocese of Machakos and Archdiocese of Mombasa. That’s a total of 58 water systems, serving 352,871 people!

READ MORE: How Spiritual Transformation and Clean Water Are Related

High-Quality Clean Water System Procedures in Kenya

Our ministry partner, Good Samaritan Water Sanitation Services, follows this specific set of procedures to install high-quality water systems:

  1. Meet with the local community. Community meetings ensure that locals understand the long-term commitment regarding their responsibilities (e.g., securing appropriate land titles, forming a water committee, performing maintenance on the water system). It also gives families an opportunity to ask questions and better understand the water project.
  2. Contract a trusted Kenyan drilling company.
  3. Conduct a hydrogeological survey to determine the best location for drilling.
  4. Drill the borehole. Because of the region’s dryness, each borehole is drilled to a depth of at least 200 meters, ensuring that it reaches plentiful water. The borehole is then encased in a special tubing to preserve its strength and purity.
  5. Conduct pump and water quality tests. This year, the water systems installed in the Diocese of Machakos were found to pump an average of 1,849 gallons per hour, and the systems installed in the Archdiocese of Mombasa are pumping an average of 3,170 gallons per hour — both extremely good results for the area. Water quality tests conducted by government labs reported that the water is safe for human consumption.
  6. Install additional components. In each community, a 2,642-gallon storage tank is fixed atop a 164-foot metal structure. Solar panels are attached to the top of each tank to power the water system’s pump. The pump pushes water into the elevated tank. Gravity then feeds that water to a kiosk, where families can conveniently fill their containers from hoses or taps. Water stored in the elevated tank will sustain the community on cloudy days, when solar energy is not as strong.
  7. Train water committees to conduct basic system maintenance and to manage the collection of a small water fee (about 5 cents for every 5-gallon jerrycan of water). These funds are then used to cover any future repairs on the water system. Payments are submitted electronically, directly into a savings account for system maintenance.
  8. Train communities regarding water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Trainings were completed in all 15 communities, and families are now equipped to protect the purity of their wells by practicing proper hygiene. They also received agricultural instruction, empowering them to strengthen food security through home gardens and community farming projects.

By following these procedures and maintaining high standards, Fr. Fabian ensures that his water systems truly provide Water for Life! The water systems installed are a high-quality investment that will bless families for years to come.

READ MORE: Empowering African Communities Through Water and Workshops

Kenyan students in class.
Now that his water worries have ended, Eliud (left) loves attending school. Today, his classroom is filled with energetic students.

Lives of Kenya’s Children Transformed by Clean Water

Beyond quenching thirst, clean water produces many life-transforming blessings. Free from the time-consuming chore of collecting water, families can finally attend Mass, parents can focus on increasing their income, and children can attend school consistently.

Consider the life of Eliud Mongela, 14, who rarely used to attend school. Now, learning is his favorite thing to do — and it’s all thanks to safe, clean water!

Eliud lives in Kiongwani, Kenya, with his parents and five siblings. His parents are subsistence farmers, but due to the region’s dryness, they barely harvest enough food to feed their family. To make ends meet and send their children to school, they also raise and sell goats for additional income.

For as long as Eliud can remember, he has spent long hours searching for water beneath the blistering Kenyan sun. This laborious chore often consumed his entire day, so he attended class irregularly. His grades suffered to the point where he had to repeat a year of school. Eliud saw little purpose in education when simply surviving each day was such a struggle. On many days, his classroom was nearly empty because so many students were out searching for water.

If you visited Eliud’s school today, however, you would find a classroom full of energetic students! Now that Kiongwani has a safe water system, the children have much more time and energy for learning. Eliud has already noticed a significant change in his health and in the health of his siblings. For so long, these children felt sick and tired — but today they are enthusiastic about their education and hopeful for what the future might bring.

“The availability of water has brought great joy to our entire community!” Eliud said.

READ MORE: World Water Day 2022: Fighting the Global Water Crisis Through Catholic Missions

People gather at water kiosk in a Kenyan village.
Locals in Kamtonga, Kenya, fill jerrycans with clean water at their new water kiosk.

Addressing Water Scarcity Worldwide

Cross Catholic Outreach’s Water for Life campaign did more than satisfy thirst and protect Kenyan families from waterborne illnesses. It gave women, children and entire families a new lease on life, freeing them from the arduous task of seeking water.

Today, entire communities are safely accessing clean, abundant water thanks to the generosity of our donors.

We are so grateful to everyone who contributed to make this project possible. Thanks to your love and support, families are now healthier, children are attending school again, and 151,970 lives have been forever transformed!

If you supported this year’s efforts to provide clean water, thank you. If you would like to give, there are many opportunities to change lives! Many families in countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, Nicaragua and Haiti remain without access to safe water. Working together, we can quench their thirst and continue building a brighter future.

God bless you!

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.