In 2017 I traveled to Lesotho bringing 60 water filters and a desire to provide clean water for 60 women with children. Each of the women would pledge to filter water for three other women with children, bringing the total to 240 families being served for 10 years.
In 2018, I asked our U.S.-Ontario Province to help me return with 60 more filters to serve another 240 families with children. I also traveled to Brazil and trained 15 women to use the filters, providing clean water to 60+ families. Many donors helped to make our SNJM Water Project possible.
I am not sure I know how to share with you the profound gratitude of the women who received the filters or the impact this project has on their families, but I’ll share some of their remarks and pictures with you.
I returned to Brazil in September 2019 and to Lesotho in October 2019. An article about the Water Project in our newsletter SNJM Now inspired very generous donors. I specifically remember one donor asking me if I had more resources, would I be able to expand my reach? I did not hesitate to answer because of an experience I had in Lesotho last year.
We arrived in a village for our last meeting. We only had 15 filters left. Over 100 hopeful people showed up. I cannot tell you the pain I experienced in the pit of my stomach. Many of these people had walked a long way in hopes of getting clean water to keep their children from sickness and perhaps death from contaminated water. All we could do at that time was to put everyone’s name in a hat and have a little boy draw 15 names. To this day, I have a vivid picture of the look on the faces of those who left very disappointed. I asked God to make a way for us to return to that village in Peka with more filters.
Well, this past October we were able to do three training in Peka, which allowed us to reach about 180 families. I asked each woman to sign a commitment that she would not only help three other women with children, but to also help at least one elderly person. I had noticed that many of the elderly live alone and could use clean water.
My goal this year was 200 families in Brazil and 500 in Lesotho. I am very happy to say we reached the goal in Brazil and we surpassed the goal in Lesotho. When I left Lesotho, we had reached 510 families. While there, I worked with local Sisters who serve on the SNJM Justice Network and trained them to lead the training sessions. I left with them enough filters and materials to do three additional trainings, which will bring our total there to 735 families. This is why I say, “Look what God can do!”
The women and the Sisters in both places are so grateful for the SNJM Water Project. They just kept thanking me and saying, “We cannot believe that you would come all the way here to help us” and “We cannot believe that people who do not even know us would make it possible for us to have clean water for our children.” They thanked me and asked me to please thank everyone back in my country for them. People had big smiles on their faces when they left, and many would hug me and say, “We love you.” It was so humbling to see their reaction to something we take for granted every day.
Women receiving water filters from the project have two requirements: they sign a covenant to provide clean water for three other women with children and one elderly family, and they also agree to meet once a month for at least six months to support one another and continue to build community.
In the photos, you’ll see that many of these women are very young. They walk a long way to get to the site where we hold the trainings, often bringing their little children. What we have been able to do so far has had an enormous impact on their quality of life.
But there are so many more wanting and needing our help. At times, we are still turning some people away. Let us continue to ask our good God to make a way for us to continue this much needed project, and perhaps expand it in the near future.
Sister Barbara Spears