The Social Justice Fund is supported by Friars around the Province, who contribute to a fund to help groups working with poor and marginalized people. Applications are submitted by groups, and the money disbursed by the Our Lady of Consolation Province’s Commission on Peace, Justice, and the Safeguarding of Creation.
From time to time, we will highlight groups that have received funding. We begin with Water With Blessings, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky.
Like many great ideas, it began with something basic: the practical desire to provide healthy water to a small group of people. And like in any great story, there are many twists and turns on the way to success.
Architect Jim Burris, hospital engineer Arnie LeMay, and Ursuline Sister Larraine Lauter were veterans of medical mission trips, tiring of treating the same water-borne illnesses year after year. Feelings of helplessness began to creep in; instead of treating the root problem of dirty water, they were merely treating the symptoms.
After finding a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem, the trio founded Water With Blessings.
“We learned a lot about why subsidiarity is such a powerful idea,” Sr. Larraine said. “If you must wisely invest resources, go to the mothers. They are the people who will sustain an effort. They are conscientious.”
Thus began the concept of Water Women.
“You need to empower compassion,” she said. “That’s the base underneath the program. When we equip and empower women for a ministry, we can bring about leadership. Men then become the supporters and collaborators.”
Armed with a simple, plastic, backwash-able water filters (based on the operation of a dialysis machine) and five-gallon plastic buckets, the Water With Blessings developed a training guide and went to work. Then on the second day of training, the program took on its true direction and identity.
“On that second day, one hour in, we handed the session over to one of the women there,” Sr. Larraine said. “By empowering the women to be teachers, letting them develop the curriculum further, it really began to move forward.
“If you just distribute materials, if you just teach top-down, there is no local leadership. Then when you leave, it implodes.
Now, it is the women who go out on their own, in brigades of Water Women, discerning their next moves, and where to take the program. The work has now spread to 14 countries.
Sr. Larraine also points out the organization’s spiritual benefits.
“We have a big focus on prayer and community,” she said. “We all pray together at 1 pm, no matter where we are. We set the alarms on our phones, and in our offices, across the country and in Honduras and other places.
“And there is a God spark in the work. If you give the filter to a woman, she will take it home and guard it, afraid that it might be stolen. If you say, ‘In solidarity, will you share this with others?’ perhaps she will for a few weeks. But if you say, ‘Will you be like the woman at the well, will you serve as a Water Woman?’ women will fly with that. We need to keep finding women who have the God spark.”