Global Outreach

A Well for Sister Fidelis

Posted by Madeleine Richey on Jan 20, 2015 5:40:00 AM

The hot African sun beats down on the lush landscape of western Kenya. Even amidst bountiful rain that nourishes the greenery, drinkable water can be scarce. The people are forced to dig deeper into the ground until their buckets can reach the cool water from overused wells that have not yet gone completely dry. Water is life, as the saying goes, and in this part of Kenya, finding it is a daily struggle.


image of the Kenyan countryside Blue skies over Kenya

Sister Fidelis of the Little Sisters of Saint Francis (CARITAS For Children’s ministry partners in East Africa) took it upon herself to—in her own words—“storm the heavens with prayers” when she discovered that her elderly mother’s well had run dry. It was a rough hole in the earth, covered in moss, perhaps unclean, but at least there had been water. Now there was nothing.


image of the dry well The old. dry well

Previously, her mother had been able to hobble carefully out to the well and draw water, but once the buckets began to come up dry she knew she was in trouble, forced instead to trek out to a distant stream or send young boys who were willing to fetch the water she needed each day. The daily walk for water can be demanding for young and old alike, but when one must use a cane to walk slowly it can take hours in the blistering sun.


Sr. Fidelis' mother walking with cane Sr. Fidelis' mother walking to the village well


image of Sr. Fidelis at village well Sr. Fidelis drawing water from the village well


image of people filling jerry can Filling a jerry can with water drawn from the village well

The easiest solution? Dig a new well. Sr. Fidelis determined that the cost of having a proper well dug would require 181,480 Kenyan Shillings (KES), equal to roughly $2,100. So where to get the money?

Years ago, Sr. Fidelis had completed part of her university education in the United States, during which time she met Sr. Ellen T. Carr, OSF, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The two forged a friendship that has lasted for years, occasionally sending gifts and messages from one continent to the other. So when Sr. Fidelis found herself in need of help, she reached out to her dear friend.

CARITAS For Children’s founder, Christopher Hoar, also happens to be a friend of Sr. Ellen, and it is through her that he first heard about the need for a well. Although CARITAS For Children’s mission is child sponsorship, occasionally Chris’ attention is drawn to special projects such as this and help is given whenever possible.

Seeing that the well could provide a water source not just for the mother of Sr. Fidelis, but her whole village, CARITAS For Children joined the effort to have a new well dug. Sr. Ellen sought contributions from her friends and acquaintances on behalf of Sr. Fidelis. CARITAS For Children gathered those donations, added a little extra, navigated the Kenyan banking system, and wired the funds to get the project underway. Within a few months these joint efforts were realized!


image of new sealed well The new well!

Now there is a well, reaching deep into the earth to access the sustaining waters. Sr. Fidelis’ mother now only has to walk a few paces on her property to easily pump water, her life made so much easier and safer—something few in East Africa can realistically hope for in their old age. For many, the quest for water is unending. In the western world we can turn on a tap and clean water gushes out, ready for drinking. We don’t realize the true luxury of water on demand.


image of Sr. Fidelis' mother at the new well Sr. Fidelis' mother at the new well

The fulfilled need of one elderly woman has become the benefit of her neighbors too. She shares this gift with her village. The women nearby can pump water for their families, the children don’t have to walk for more than a mile with heavy jerry cans balanced precariously on their heads or clutched in their small hands. Now there is plenty of water for this small village.


Sr. Fidelis and her mom with village friends Sr. Fidelis and her mom with village friends

In other places, the need is still great. CARITAS For Children’s programs in Uganda are usually within close reach of water, but often it is from unclean sources such as polluted streams or wells. Closer to the lake, people are prone to walking into the cool waters to draw their water from its murky surface. So even though there is water in abundance, there is—as they say—“not a drop to drink.”

For this reason, CARITAS For Children has started a Water Filter Project in partnership with Stonehouse Water Technologies. Stonehouse provides a micron filter that uses any clean 5-gallon bucket and requires simple construction. The filter is good for up to 1 million gallons of water, or roughly 3 years of use. If CARITAS For Children raises enough money to purchase 100 filters, Stonehouse will ship the filters to Uganda for the use of families in our programs in Nkokonjeru. Each filter costs $100 which includes the cost of delivering the filters to respective families and instructing them on its use. To meet our goal of 100 filters, a total of $10,000 needs to be raised. Thanks to the generous contributions of some of our sponsors and donors, we’re half way there! But there are still 50 more needed before the shipment can be sent to Uganda.

If you are already a sponsor, your donation will purchase a water filter for your sponsored child’s family. If you’re not a sponsor, it will go to another family in need. CARITAS For Children purchased one of these filters last year for use at the mission house in Nkokonjeru, where it has been used by multiple interns and CARITAS volunteers to ensure they aren’t unnecessarily put at risk for waterborne illnesses. The bucket filter is a cost effective and efficient means of providing clean drinking water.

Please help us reach our goal.

Click here to donate online. $100 will provide clean water to a family in need!

Or send donations by mail to:

CARITAS For Children

ATTN: Water Filter Project

7400 West National Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53214


image of children using bucket filter CARITAS children learning to use the bucket filter



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