A Catholic cardinal pumps water from a hand pump well while children fill their bowls at the spout.
The late Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr gives local children a drink from the new well in Kokya, Ghana.

Catholics Provide Clean Water in Three African Countries

Earlier this year, Catholic parishes, schools, groups, families and individuals in the U.S. took part in a major effort to quench the thirst and transform the lives of needy families through Cross Catholic Outreach’s Wells of Salvation campaign. Their generosity successfully blessed nearly 52,000 lives in three African countries by:

  • Installing 65 wells to provide clean water for communities in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia.
  • Repairing and upgrading a water system for a Catholic hospital, primary school and parish in Zambia.
  • Improving access to education in Ghana by repairing a storm-damaged primary school and constructing a three-classroom kindergarten, two three-classroom junior high schools and housing for teachers.
  • Constructing a multipurpose building to host Sunday Mass, spiritual formation activities, kindergarten classes, adult literacy courses and more.

Here, learn more about the lives immeasurably blessed by these life-transforming projects.

A little girl stands by a well holding a cup of water.
Ethel drinks a cup of clean water from the new well near her school.

Ethel’s Urgent Need for Water

In the community of Sabuli, Ghana, 6-year-old Ethel Gordon used to wake up anxious, fretting over the day ahead. As soon as her eyes opened each morning, she would hurry to help her family collect a little water at a distant well before class. Knowing she would find no water at school, she would also fill a small bottle for herself to drink and ration, taking only small sips to quench her nagging thirst throughout the day.

The school’s lack of bathroom facilities was another source of anxiety for Ethel. She said she felt “tortured” having to go into the brush, where she would have little privacy and risk encountering snakes. She dreaded the experience so much that she would either sit in class uncomfortably or sometimes miss school altogether.

This was the agonizing situation facing many children and families in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana, the Diocese of Karonga, Malawi, and the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia. In rural communities (where infrastructure is often lacking), people were suffering without reliable access to safe water and sanitation. Many were spending hours each day on the task of collecting water — sometimes walking miles to reach the nearest source and drinking from contaminated streams, ponds or shallow wells that were overrun by bacteria.

Today, however, the situation has miraculously changed for tens of thousands of people such as Ethel! In fact, a total of 65 communities in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia now have clean wells, and almost 52,000 lives have been blessed by improved access to water, sanitation, education and Catholic spiritual formation.

With a clean hand pump well and a sanitary latrine now installed nearby, Ethel says, “I am one of the happiest girls in school. I am so thankful to God!”

A woman with a baby on her back pumps water from a hand pump well while another woman stands by.
Lucky fetches water from her community’s new well. The blessing of clean, accessible water has made life much easier for this busy mom!

Lucky Gives Thanks in Malawi

Lucky Msiska, 34, is also giving thanks to God for clean water. In the Malawian village of Mtekera II, she and her husband work hard to provide a decent life for their children, crushing coal at the local mine to earn a little income. They also grow rice for their family to eat.

In the past, no matter how many things were on Lucky’s to-do list, she had to reserve the first three hours of each day for water collection — a process that typically began at 2 a.m. She would leave her home to join a group of people walking to the Hara River, located more than half a mile away through thick bushes. The women knew it was too dangerous to journey alone in the dark, so young men from the village would accompany them to guard against wild animals and other potential predators.

The process of reaching the small river, waiting in line and filling her bucket often took close to three hours — and still, Lucky might not return home with enough water to meet all her family’s needs.

“Due to the long distance, I could make just one trip, and the water (I collected) was not enough for bathing, washing and other household chores. My children could not always attend school because they were feeling shy to go to school without bathing,” Lucky recalled sadly.

Things became especially difficult during Malawi’s dry season, when the shallow Hara River would dry up completely. In those months, families would dig deep “scoop holes” beside the riverbed in hopes of striking groundwater — but those mud puddles were just as unsafe and unappetizing as the murky water from the river.

“Water from the open stream and scoop holes was very disgusting, especially when drinking,” Lucky shared.

Today, though, Lucky feels she has a new lease on life. With a well in her community, she collects water quickly and easily, leaving plenty of time for her family to engage in other important activities such as school and work.

“I have enough time to do household chores and income-generating activities,” she said in celebration. “Now my children can bathe frequently and look neat. They bathe in time and go to school in time because it takes a short period of time to collect water from the new borehole, and there is enough time to prepare for classes.”

Lucky especially rejoices over how clean the water is. She is deeply relieved that her family can finally quench their thirst with clear water that will not make them ill.

“Water from the borehole is clean and safe. As such, my family members do not complain of diarrhea cases as opposed to the past, before the borehole was drilled,” she said.

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Students sit in class while a teacher writes on the blackboard.
Thanks to the new school in Tambaare, Ghana, students have a safe place to learn.

Supporting Education and Spiritual Formation in Ghana

Safer, cleaner water wasn’t the only blessing families received through the Wells of Salvation outreach! Through this effort, U.S. donors also improved access to quality education and Catholic spiritual formation in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana.

The Diocese of Wa is located in Ghana’s Upper West Region, which currently ranks as the second-poorest region in the country. Many remote communities in the area lack access to infrastructure, including clean water, paved roads, safe schools and other important facilities. As such, many schools and parishes must meet in the only buildings available to them — no matter how dilapidated or insufficient those structures might be.

Take, for example, the Catholic junior high school in Tambaare. The old building was so overcrowded that most students had to sit outside beneath a makeshift pavilion. Inside the classroom, conditions were not much better. The dirt walls were crumbling, and when it rained the roof leaked so badly that students would have to go home for the day. It did not even have a bathroom for students and teachers to use, and this uncomfortable situation sometimes dissuaded teens from attending their classes at all.

“But now that we are in the new building, we study well,” said Boye Martin, an 18-year-old student who has been blessed by the construction of a sturdy school, complete with a safe well and sanitation block. “There are a lot of things for us — good water, a toilet and good infrastructure. Because of that, it encourages us to come to school. …  I will thank Cross Catholic Outreach because they built the new school for us.”

Elsewhere, in the community of Babile, Ghana, locals had been suffering without a place to hold kindergarten classes or celebrate Sunday Mass. Without a safe building, any important worship activities, classes and town meetings were usually held outside beneath the trees. Students and parishioners were often distracted by bad weather, blistering heat and noisy passersby — but today, they have a comfortable multipurpose building where people can gather to learn and lift their praises to God!

Daniel Fallow, a teacher in Babile, told us, “We never dreamed of getting such a facility, and we’re affected in so many ways. Thank God this organization (Cross Catholic Outreach) has come to Babile to see the need of the community and has offered us this nice project. In fact, we have nothing to give them, but we only say that God will replenish all that they’ve given to us a hundredfold.”

One boy pumps water from a hand pump well while another washes his hands at the spout.
A boy pumps water so his friend can wash his hands in the Diocese of Wa, Ghana.

U.S. Catholics Transform Lives Through Giving

The team at Cross Catholic Outreach is thankful to everyone who supported its Wells of Salvation objectives. Because so many generous American Catholics participated, thousands of lives have been blessed in a lasting way.

“By working together, our donors have made an incredible impact — quenching thirst, reducing instances of waterborne diseases, and building a brighter future for entire communities in the developing world,” said Jim Cavnar, Cross Catholic Outreach president. “Children like Ethel no longer walk miles to find water, and women like Lucky no longer lose countless hours to the dangerous chore of collecting water. Overall, people are healthier and safer. They are also filled with deep joy and greater hope. That’s the kind of life we believe God wants for them, and we’re so encouraged to see how Catholics came together to share his love.”

Thank you for choosing to share God’s goodness with so many of our brothers and sisters in need. Your compassionate action is a powerful testament to what can be accomplished when the Church unites to transform lives for the glory of Jesus Christ.

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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.