WESTON, Vermont — References to water flow through the Scriptures.
“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (Mt 10:42). “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink'” (Jn 7:37). “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal” (Rev 22:1).
This connection is what spurred the Benedictine brothers of the Weston Priory to help secure funds for a clean water project that is transforming lives.
“We immediately saw the connection to our life and faith,” said Brother Placid Gaunay about the brothers assisting this project of Rutland-based Pure Water for the World.
The priory was the fiscal agent for a successful grant of about $50,000, awarded by Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities to Pure Water that included the installation of 148 biosand filters in homes in Trojes, Honduras.
A biosand filter is a point-of-use water treatment system. These filters remove pathogens and suspended solids from water using biological and physical processes that take place in a sand column covered with a biofilm.
“We are so honored the brothers said ‘yes’ to be the fiscal agent and for their trust in the program,” commented Carolyn Meub, executive director of Pure Water for the World.
The nonprofit envisions a world in which all people have clean water, safe sanitation and the knowledge of hygiene behaviors needed to sustain them for future generations.
This was “an act of trust” that in effect gave the foundation the brothers’ assurance of the value of the project, Brother Michael Hoveling told Vermont Catholic, the publication of the Burlington Diocese. “This (project) resounds with our life so deeply as Catholic Benedictine monks that we will support their work.”
In fact, the brothers have been supporting the work of Pure Water for the World since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
The Raskob grant helped Pure Water for the World reach four more rural communities in Honduras where, in addition to clean water, nearly 150 families got pit latrines.
It’s all part of the nonprofit agency’s water, sanitation and hygiene program to promote health and better lives for people in some of the poorest communities in Honduras and Haiti.
Clean, safe drinking/bathing water is important to the health of a community to prevent illness. “Sick kids don’t go to school, and if one kid is sick and not going to school, the mother can’t work,” Meub said, explaining the ripple effect contaminated water has on a family.
And if a girl has a menstrual cycle while in a school without proper sanitation and hygiene facilities, she might drop out. “Water and sanitation is a big first step in dealing with illiteracy,” Meub added.
In addition, these facilities are important to the work of the Catholic Church. She referred to a seminarian in Trojes who said lack of basic services like clean water and sanitation affects church outreach. If priests, seminarians and catechists get sick, “this causes delays in preaching the word of God to families,” he told her.
Pure Water for the World teaches people in the areas they serve to be “community agents” and educate their neighbors about the water filters and latrines. This fosters community development, and “it is important to have reliable resources to build up their reliance on each other and strengthen their community,” said Brother Richard Iaquinto, Weston’s prior.
“Rural people are the most marginalized people,” Meub said.
The brothers understand the importance of clean water for all people and expressed concern about its privatization and use as a political tool. “The use of water is becoming more and more critical,” Hoveling said.
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Urban is content editor/staff writer for Vermont Catholic, the publication of the Diocese of Burlington.