“The children in Africa, this is what they drink.”

“The children in Africa, this is what they drink.”

Sister Ann Fannella, SNDdeN presented a replacement plaque to Carroll High School Teachers and Water Project Coordinators (left to right) Sarah Lesiak and Courtney Graham. They have been partnering with the Clean Water Project for a total of 9 years. Each school receives a Clean Water Project Plaque for the first year of involvement in the Clean Water Project and Water Droplet Recognition every year thereafter.

Sister Ann Fanella, standing before a class of eighth-graders at St. Robert Bellarmine in Chicago, holds up a glass of Lake Michigan water.

“This is what we drink,” she says.

Then she adds a tablespoon of dirt.

“The children in Africa, this is what they drink.”

The eighth-graders, their eyes on the glass, the dirt settling, don’t say a thing. But in less than a minute, in fewer than twenty words, Sister Ann has taught them a reality so thoroughly they will never forget it. And she has taught them in a manner such that they are not content to be passive reservoirs of knowledge but are instead eager to be agents for change.

Soon the eighth-graders have a motto: “Ten Cents a Day for Clean Water”.

Before the covid-19 pandemic, the eighth graders at Our Lady of Lourdes School presented a water project to the entire school on purification systems in areas that do not have water treatment facilities. 

And soon they have results: $1,600 raised school-wide for photovoltaic equipment that not only will purify water but that will run pumps, turn on lights, provide refrigeration, allow for Internet, and so many other things besides.

All from the lesson of the glass of water.

What Sister Ann did in Chicago she now does in Cincinnati and surrounding cities as part of the Sisters’ Clean Water for Life Program. She speaks to one class at a time and makes the conversation relevant. It’s not about other continents or other countries, but about other children. It’s about what they drink; the miles they trek for water, even if dirty; the hours spent collecting firewood with which to boil the water; the wasted hours that could be spent in a classroom.

And the children here, hearing of the children there, respond. Ten cents at a time. Through Sister Ann, they have become part of St. Julie’s mission – to give people what they need for life!