Praise be you my Lord, through Sister Water, so useful, humble and precious and pure (CtC7).
World Water Day is celebrated March 22nd and this year’s theme is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water challenges we face in the 21st century. (http://worldwaterday.org/) NBS clearly reflects the harmonious interrelationships core to a Franciscan vision.
The nature-based solutions campaign promotes that “the answer is in nature”. Planting trees to replenish forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands are sustainable and cost-effective ways to help rebalance the water cycle, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve human health and livelihoods. By using NBS to help meet the water needs of a growing population, we will contribute to the creation of a circular economy, at the same time helping to protect the natural environment and reduce pollution – both key targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6, which commits the world to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. (http://worldwaterday.org/)
Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Unsafe water kills 200 children every hour and in one year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons of water. (www.seametrics.com/blog/water-facts/) Statistics can overpower us and leave us feeling helpless, but we cannot afford to do nothing! Each of us can do something, and I wish to share what my congregation has done in collaboration with many others.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque, Iowa, with support from associates, launched the Sister Water Project in 2006 to bring safe water to villages in Tanzania and Honduras. Months were spent studying, discussing and praying about global water issues to fulfill our mission statement of “living in right relationship with all of creation.” We learned that in Tanzania, some women walk miles to find water, and waterborne malaria kills many children. In Honduras, 50,000 young children die every year from water-related illnesses. Most illness in the country is due to impure water (www.osfdbq.org).
The initial goal for Sister Water Project was to raise $42,000. Thanks to the support of Safe Water for Life and Dignity (SWLD), the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, Holy Spirit Sisters, Salvatorian Missions, the Dubuque Rotary Club and countless donors, the Sister Water Project has raised more than $1,000,000. 100% of donations go toward materials, transport, and labor for water systems in Honduras or Tanzania. These funds allowed the Sister Water Project to complete/restore over 160 well projects in Tanzania and 20 water systems in Honduras. (www.osfdbq.org) Central to Sister Water Project are the relationships that developed and sustained throughout the years as the work continues.
I have been personally blessed to have been part of two teams that traveled to Honduras to dig trenches and work alongside local villagers to bring safe water to their homes. My teammates and I all testified that our lives have been forever changed about how we see and use water. We can all do something to promote right relationship with our Sister Water. The possibilities are endless, so celebrate Sister Water every day, especially on March 22nd. To learn more go to http://www.osfdbq.org; www.seametrics.com/blog/water-facts/, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nancy Miller OSF