Committed to Clean Water
School children in the Democratic Republic of Congo village of Mpese greatly benefit from the photovoltaic system operating at the Sisters’ compound.
“It would be a priority on St. Julie’s list for all of us to be committed to clean water.”
With strong financial support this year from across the United States, including a $300,000 grant from the Harold C. Schott Foundation, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur now have 9 fully-operational photovoltaic systems in Africa, including two in Nigeria and seven in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The systems provide electricity which in turn provides potable water via either boreholes drilled deep into reserves of uncontaminated water, or purification of surface water.
The photovoltaic systems also power pumps to move water to central distribution stations, as well as providing lighting, refrigeration and communications. They serve Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur convents and ministries, including hospitals, clinics and schools; and to the degree possible, serve the surrounding communities.
When the systems were originally built, every effort was made to obtain clean water as quickly as possible, even if that meant using existing if outdated infrastructure, such as older water tanks. Now that the projects are successful, and water flowing, sites are being revisited with the goal of increasing efficiency and modernizing equipment, such as replacing lead-acid batteries with longer-lasting more efficient lithium ion batteries.
Plans also call for greater and more regular testing of water. And, in what Sister Teresita Weind, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, calls a ministry of engineering, efforts are being made to educate and support Sisters to manage the systems themselves and to further develop the systems’ capacity.
“Water is a basic human right and it would be a priority on St. Julie’s list for all of us to be committed to clean water,” says Sister Teresita. “When I visit countries in Africa, and I see the children going to what they call the watering hole...to draw water before they come to school, and back home to draw water for the evening — to scoop up water — I think of how the work to obtain water deters their education and their energy to devote themselves to study, because their life is so labor intensive.”
The three components of the Sisters’ Clean Water Project are the photovoltaic systems and boreholes in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and distribution of water purification packets, primarily in Kenya.