Water. How easy it can be to take this resource for granted. In many developed countries, all a person has to do is lift a lever, push a button, or turn a knob, and water begins to flow.
Yet millions across the globe experience a decided lack of access to safe water. Such conditions increase exposure to deadly diseases and decrease a person’s ability to fight them. In addition, the effort to find, collect and transport water each day can take an incredible amount of time and energy. Too often, water retrieval interferes with a person’s ability to earn a living or go to school. This sad fact is especially true for women and girls, who are the ones most often tasked with water retrieval.
Access to safe water is directly connected to these and many other issues. So when water needs are addressed, it sparks significant changes in a community’s overall quality of life.
In 2004, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross took a corporate stand recognizing access to clean water as a fundamental, inalienable human right. They publicly committed themselves to support actions and policies that “ensure access to sufficient, affordable, safe water for all people, especially the most vulnerable ….” In the 18 years since, the sisters have stood by this commitment in multiple ways.
Safe Sanitation in Uganda
Water safety affects every aspect of life. Staff at the Holy Cross Health Centre in Kirinda, Uganda, saw that the existing latrine was posing a health problem. Floods and the rainy season made it worse. The facility is a pit latrine with a slab, which is considered by the World Health Organization to be an improved sanitation facility.
But the location of this particular latrine created a heightened risk of contaminated water flow to the health center next door. It likewise affected nearby Moreau Nursery and Primary School, also a ministry of the sisters.
In partnership with the Linehan Family Foundation, the Sisters of the Holy Cross constructed a new six-room toilet facility. It includes flushing toilets, separate washrooms and a septic system to protect the groundwater. Not only does this facility safeguard patients, staff, teachers and students, it also serves as an educational tool. People in the village and surrounding areas can learn about and safely practice proper hygiene.
Sister Daisy Kabuleeta, CSC, says, “This blessing will continue for many years to come, positively impacting the lives of so many Ugandans who struggle daily.”
Filtration in Ghana
In Ghana, West Africa, another example of the sister's commitment shines. As a nation, Ghana has made the availability of safe water a primary focus. Improved water sources are now available to 80% of its people. Pollution is still a large problem, however, making water filtration a necessity.
Our Lady of Holy Cross School in Kasoa serves more than 1,000 students in nursery through high school grades. It was fortunate to have a filtration unit, but as the student body grew, overuse led to constant breakdowns. Sisters appealed to the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters. The subsequent grant brought in a second filter. Students now have four collection points to access clean water while at school and to fill their bottles to take home.
Additionally, large gatherings such as PTA meetings, which bring together more than 350 parents, now have adequate water without the need to purchase any from outside sources.
Water Flows in India
In Barakathal, India, Our Lady of Holy Cross School and Girls’ Hostel sits in the hills of Tripura in far northeastern India.
This region normally receives abundant rain during the monsoon season. In recent years, however, the water table has been increasingly unable to retain these stores. Those who dwell in the hills are left dependent on raw wells and small ponds. During the dry season, even these less-than-ideal sources begin to disappear. These dwindling sources force people to journey long distances, often on foot, in search of water.
Our Lady of Holy Cross School educates nearly 400 students in nursery through eighth grade. Over the years, the water quality gradually worsened until drinking it began making people ill. Headmistress Sister Khochem Mossang, CSC, knew something had to be done about the rusty, muddy water coming out of their faucets.
Through the A.A. Beiro Family Foundation, the school obtained a grant that enabled the purchase of a large water purification system. Three layers of filtration completely remove dirt, rust and other contaminants. A large water tank at the school and another at the hostel bring this fresh, clean water directly to the point of use.
“The children were more than excited to see the big water tanks,” says Sister Khochem. “Students are now assured of their safety from waterborne disease.”
Fruits of Holy Cross
Every month, Fruits of Holy Cross shares the good news of the ministries of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Our “fruits” are nourished not just by the sisters’ labors or the seed of faith planted by our founder Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, they are watered by our many prayer partners, donors and benefactors—by you.
Ongoing Work for Safe Water
The relationship between the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the issue of access to safe water is an ongoing one. The Congregation is now asking its sisters around the world to assess their local water situations and propose solutions. The Congregation also asks donors to be partners in bringing these solutions to life. Together, our Clean Water Initiative will help ensure the flow of this life-giving resource in the communities where sisters minister.