Over the past two years, the Coronavirus has sickened and killed millions of people around the world. But the pandemic has damaged lives in other ways. In the case of Water With Blessings, the training of Water Women halted in some areas where the need for clean water is at crisis levels.
One of those places is Uganda.
Jim Wilhite has coordinated our efforts in Uganda for several years. He was the one who planned the trips, took the filters to Uganda, and led training sessions. When the virus shut down travel, the training stopped.
“We’ve been wanting to expand Water With Blessings beyond just when Jim can get there,” said Executive Director Sr. Larraine Lauter. “Now we’re setting the foundation for an ongoing effort – what we call a country team.
“Sr. Florence Oryema (in Uganda) has been involved with us for many years, and is now transitioning out of leadership for her congregation. We had talked with her about re-starting Water With Blessings training post-Covid. She has graciously agreed to lead that effort for the rest of the year.”
Together with Sr. Florence, the Water With Blessings leadership is monitoring the health situation. Children are attending school now, and if the next term begins as scheduled in late Spring, Jim Wilhite will head over in July with 600 Sawyer PointONE filters. Initially, the work will continue in Aruwa and the surrounding area.
“The plan is to have a week of intensive training once every quarter of the year, with a goal of 150 Water Women in each of those weeks,” Sr. Larraine said. “We have talked about using a correct Covid protocol for the training. Sr. Florence’s congregation had a lot of illness, but thankfully no one died. And happily, the health conditions are improving. But very wisely, she wants to continue to monitor the situation.”
Jim agrees that protecting the Ugandan people is important.
“Not only do we want them to have clean, safe water, but also to be safe during the training itself – we don’t want to upset anyone,” he said. “Children and babies are always there with their mothers, all sitting together in a church, a school, or even under the trees. We will have people there to make sure they follow the local standard operating procedures: keeping their distance, wearing a mask, no hugging.”
Jim has been to Uganda many times, and is eager to continue this life-saving work.
“The people are always so thankful that someone else cares, that people so far away have sent them a filter to give clean water to their children,” he said. “At the end of each training day, you can look around and see new Water Women giving their children water, finally safe from disease. Many give thanks to God; others break out into dance, holding their buckets high.
“They are able to change water from almost certain death to being able to quench thirst without fear. They always say: ‘I will worry no more.’”
A Special Thank You to the Comboni Missionaries
And Farewell to Our Good Friend Tony Potts
For the past five years, our partnership with the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus has been an integral part of the efforts in Uganda. Now, our good friend Tony Potts is retiring after serving for more than 14 years as the Finance Director and Business Manager of the Comboni North American Province.
In 2017, as part of the 150th anniversary of their founding, the Comboni Missionaries set a goal of raising enough money to underwrite the equipping and training of 150 Water Women. Then something surprising happened.
“It was so successful that we ended up with enough for 510 Water Women,” Tony said. “People continued to support the effort, even after it was over.”
Despite the constraints of Covid last year, the Comboni Missionaries had a very successful fund raising effort.
“We were very blessed with bequests and other large donations, some earmarked specifically for Water With Blessings” Tony said. “The Provincial Council approved a matching grant, and we were able to donate $37,000, which again is around 510 new Water Women. It’s all due to Divine Providence and our generous supporters. It made this last push something we were very happy to do.”
Tony has been impressed in his dealings with Water With Blessings.
“It is an incredible organization, such beautiful, committed people,” he said. “Led by Sr. Larraine and volunteers like Jim Wilhite – they’re an inspiration to everyone. They have a complete willingness to put themselves out there. It takes a lot of courage, and that really resonates with people.
“The emphasis on empowering the local people, women who in some cultures are second-class citizens. Now they are able to help themselves and their neighbors. All that is very good; good Gospel values.”