Giving Hope & Dignity through Water & Electricity

Publication Date: 
April 23, 2014

On March 22, global leaders, communities, and individuals marked World Water Day with a slate of activities highlighting the growing need for fresh, clean available water. More than 768 million people worldwide lack access to reliable water sources. This need is especially urgent -- and Salesian missionaries are working tirelessly to resolve this critical situation in poor communities around the globe.

Having long recognized the relationships among water, poverty and health, Salesian missionaries have prioritized water projects in some of the world’s poorest countries -- integrating sanitation methods, irrigation and well systems, and hydro-electric power installations into existing programs when possible.

“Water is essential for life,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Unfortunately, pressure on the world’s existing resources is mounting -- and water consumption is projected to increase by 19 percent by 2050. It’s critical that we create sustainable models for delivering clean water, and water-powered energy, to communities that lack it -- or the health, food security, and even physical infrastructure of its citizens are at serious risk.”

Until recently, Kami, Bolivia -- a mining community high in the Andes mountains -- faced this kind of risk. Kami’s physical isolation from the rest of the country, coupled with harsh living conditions and a persistently cold climate, means that the average life expectancy of its residents is just 40 years. Rates of illiteracy are extremely high. With the exception of tungsten mining, the sole source of income and sustenance for the majority of residents is through farming.

While water in Kami is mostly available, electricity is not. And, with no electricity to power the local school or hospital -- or to support new business enterprises -- prospects for escaping the chains of poverty were bleak.

Thanks to the dream of Fr. Serafino Chiesa, Rector of the Salesian mission in Kami, this tiny town is now connected to Bolivia’s national power grid. Under Fr. Chiesa’s guidance, experts from several partner organizations and volunteer groups collaborated to bring a long-defunct hydroelectric power station back online. Now, refurbished turbines not only supply light and technology to students, better basic medical care to patients, and power to a new sawmill and other businesses -- they also create excess energy that residents sell back to the Bolivian Electricity Board. As a result, Kami is now beginning to finance its own sustainable development -- and faces a much brighter future.

In another recent project, Salesian missionaries have brought clean water to Gambella, Ethiopia.

This effort is crucial to the region, which is subject to intense drought. As a result, women and children are forced to walk for hours to collect drinking water -- water that often proves contaminated and seriously sickens those who consume it.  Even children who escape illness fall further and further behind in school as they spend more time searching for distant wells.

Thanks to the generous support of many caring friends, and the tireless work of the Salesian community and outside volunteers, seven newly drilled wells now supply clean, potable water to more than 1,200 villagers in the Gambella area. Additionally, Salesian missionaries have trained the villagers themselves to manage and maintain the wells -- providing two additional benefits to the community: The long-term viability of the water source, and the pride of learning a new skill.

Our mission helps bring water and electricity to those who need it. From ensuring that communities have access to clean water for drinking and agriculture, to building water-powered electrical plants, Salesian missionaries are working to alleviate poverty, restore hope, and foster stable societies in 132 countries around the globe. Find your mission by joining us -- and giving the hope and opportunity that allows people to live with dignity.

Clean water initiatives are a priority for Salesian Missions. Please consider supporting this crucial work with a monthly gift -- which will help us build wells and provide safe drinking water to those who desperately need it.

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