By Debbie Weber, OPJCC director
“... I was thirsty, and you gave me drink ...” Matthew 25:35
Imagine a place where time seems to stand still. For S. Andrea Koverman, myself and Steve Schmitt, an Associate of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, that place might be the village of Zabriko, Haiti. Nestled in the beautiful mountains of Haiti, Zabriko can only be reached by foot or pack-mule. There is no running water, no electricity, no cell towers.
The people of Zabriko are often treated like outcasts. The Haitian government has, by in large, ignored the mountain villagers of Haiti, including those who live in and around Zabriko. Some wells have been built, but are shallow, resulting in contaminated water. Residents of Haitian cities look down on their sisters and brothers who are subsistence farmers, those who can only grow enough food to feed their families. To buy necessities such as medicine, clothing or a cooking pot, for example, a mountain village family must take some of their precious crop, a goat or vegetables to market. Despite disdain from the city dwellers, money is exchanged for the produce because those who live in the cities depend on the farmers for grains, vegetables and meat.
Representing the SC Federation, the three of us were asked to bring Water With Blessings to Zabriko. Our SC family and friends have generously donated money to sponsor women in developing countries with a water filtration kit, training, and clean water education. It was our job, during the first week of Advent, to get those filters to the women of Zabriko and to train them to be “Water Women,” the women who in return for receiving filters, commit to a ministry of the living word through the kind act of sharing clean water with three other families in their communities.
By equipping the Water Women of Zabriko with a simple, in-home filtration system and teaching them clean water habits, we were able to provide them with the means to protect not only their family but also their neighbors from deadly water.
Safe water is a fundamental human right. Yet, throughout the world, people of all ages fall ill and die because of contaminated water. The World Health Organization attributes 2 million deaths annually to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. Water is available, at a price. But this price is beyond the scope of many of who need it.
The Water With Blessings solution to the contaminated water crisis is simple: an inexpensive, home-based filtration system, a willing community like Zabriko and in our case, the SC Family. The medical-grade filtration system from Sawyer is small, portable, easy-to-use, reliable and inexpensive. The filters are certified for “absolute 1 microns” making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella typhi (which cause cholera and typhoid) to pass through.
This filtration system is gravity operated in design, uses no chemicals and has a fast flow rate. The system filters around 400 gallons of water per day and can last a decade without needing to be replaced. It is simple to install, use and maintain.
Equipping women to improve the lives of their families and neighbors is empowering. Partnering with Water Women offers true collaboration. The Water Women take the lead, even becoming the trainers of other women in their communities. A ministry model that draws forth women builds community. Access to safe water improves the health, economy and social well being of a community. Any strengthening of community strengthens everything else.By the end of our time in Haiti, we trained 41 Water Women. Between them, they have 179 children. And, each of these women will share their filtration system with three other families!