Water Blog - WaterStep

“I must help get them well.” – Father Mungai

Father MungaiHi, my name is Father Joseph. I am an ordained Catholic priest from Kenya. I have always felt it my calling to serve and care for people, and that is why I wanted to become a priest. When I was in primary school, I was involved with my church, where I was able to serve different people around the world. This is my passion.

I currently serve 17 smaller churches, 11 Catholic schools, and 5,000-10,000 families. The majority of the people we serve are orphaned children, and most of these people and children have HIV or Aids.

The most common battle I witness is unsafe water. Water does not exist in my country like it does in America. Where I serve is a very dry place. We have filters, but you cannot use a filter if there is no water. My parish has tried several options to create a reliable system for safe water, but everything has failed. We have a pump, but without money, it cannot be repaired properly.

The Wait for Water

I look at the future and am concerned. I have become very disappointed in my ministry, because I believe you must care for the whole person: spirit and body. I go to visit families, and in my culture, you are served tea and/or water, and to reject this tradition is a rejection of the person. So, to not offend people, I drink it and pray that I do not get sick. However, I have personally had typhoid because I drank unsafe water.

My people see their priest as their solution because they cannot always afford to go to the hospital. So, they come to me for healing. I usually see 5-6 people a day to be annointed as a result of water-borne illness and poor sanitation. Mothers will tell me, “My child isn’t in school.” Men will tell me, “I lost my job.” Everything is connected to water. People must drink something, and because there is no water, they do not have time to consider whether it is safe or not. They know why they are sick, but what else can they do?

The lack of water is a double tragedy. People nor livestock can survive without water, which means people suffer from lack of food and water. They do not choose between being hungry or thirsty–they are always hungry and always thirsty because there is no safe water. Also, during the dry seasons, there is a significant drop in school attendance. Children must drop out of school to risk their lives walking long distances on unsafe roads at vulnerable times of day to fetch water that is killing them.

I am thankful that I have found WaterStep on social media, and am hopeful for access to safe water with their tools and support. I want this nightmare of unsafe water to go away, and WaterStep is helping me imagine that reality. I can’t just rely on sacraments and preaching. If peoples’ bodies are unhealthy, I cannot preach–I must help them get well. 

You can stop the double tragedy in communities like mine, and give hope for safer and healthier lives.

Donate to WaterStep now.

Bless you,
Father Joseph Mungai, Kenya

Reaching New Heights part 2

Empowerment.  A valuable word.  Waterstep takes pride in training people how to use safe water solutions like water purification so that communities in the developing world are empowered to take care of their own water needs for years.  Waterstep believes the best solutions to water problems are rooted in simple tools and effective training.

Waterstep is thrilled to report that the village of Atiriri in Central Uganda now has safe water because the Westlake Family  was empowered and trained by Waterstep to install safe water solutions in this village.  Remember Lucy? If not, click here.  Lucy and Faith had only been pen pals but now they are kindred spirits.   Lucy’s family and Faith’s family were instant friends. Lucy’s mom, Amy, says “It was clear that God had joined our spirits a long time ago.”

Lucy’s parents shared that they believe this is a model for the world!  The whole village, the tribe, had met several times before they arrived to appoint the four leaders that would be in charge of their water.  When the Westlake family arrived, they all worked together for two days to install and educate the team on WaterStep’s M-100 – the chlorine generator.  The village came together for a spirit-filled dedication and celebration of their new, safe water. It was noted by one of their community leaders that they no longer have to walk 3-4 miles a day to fetch water and neither do they have to sleep in the well until water arrives.

Lucy and her family continue their journey to Tanzania as Rodney (dad) and Lucy (12 years old) will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this Saturday.  Just as Rodney and Lucy will reach new heights on Saturday, the village of Atiriri reached new heights as they worked together for two days to install and educate the local community on the M-100, Waterstep’s chlorine generator. WaterStep truly believes in empowering people like the Westlake family to transfer knowledge and empowerment to nationals in the developing world.


Reaching New Heights – part 1

Rodney and Amy WestlakeJust two weeks ago Rodney and Amy Westlake arrived to  WaterStep’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky to be trained on how to install portable safe water systems using WaterStep’s M-100 which provides 10,000 gallons of safe water per day.  Why?  Because their family will be traveling to Uganda on January 1 so that their daughter, Lucy, can climb Mount Kilimanjaro Jan 7-14 with her father.  Not only will she be summiting her way into the record books, she will be a WaterStep Ambassador as she and her family will be Saving Lives with Safe Water in Uganda.  Here’s how it all came to be:

When Lucy was two years old, she received a letter back from the child that had received her Operation Child Christmas Shoebox.  The girl’s name is Faith Olupot.  She is the same age as Lucy and lives in a rural village in Uganda.  She received the shoebox through the local Christian family center in her village.  Lucy and Faith began writing letters to each other.  In 2010, Faith’s father, Emmanuel, learned how to use a computer and reached out to the Westlakes via email.  The communication between Lucy and Faith’s family became easier and more frequent with computer access.  The Westlakes knew that Faith and her family were in desperate need of safe water and after learning about WaterStep years ago, they began praying and thinking about how they could take safe water to Faith and her family.lucy-and-rodneyuganda-and-lucy

In April 2011, the Westlakes – Rodney, Amy, Lucy and Jack – travelled to eastern Kentucky to develop a plan for the Middletown Christian Family Mission Trip to Lynch, Kentucky. It was there that they learned uganda-and-lucythe highest peak in Kentucky was a short drive up Black Mountain.  They drove to the high point and it was there that Lucy told her parents that she wanted to be baptized.  Driving home from that trip, they began to wonder and research where other state high points were located.  Yes, this family loves to travel.  That summer, they decided to stop and hike as many high peaks as they could on their family trip out West.  That was the beginning of the quest.  Lucy, now 12, and her father, Rodney, decided they wanted to hike all 50 state high points.  This past summer, they became the youngest father-daughter team to ever summit the lower 48 state high points.  Lucy set a world record as the youngest female to accomplish this goal. uganda-and-lucyuganda-and-lucy

The only mountain left to climb to complete Lucy’s goal of standing on top of all 50 state high points is Alaska’s Denali.  Denali is one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb.  The trip is 21 days of hiking solely in snow, climbing to an elevation of 20,310 feet and carrying 100 pounds on your back.  After endless research, the Westlakes found a guide who would be willing to guide Rodney and Lucy on Denali.  But, there was one prerequisite.  Lucy had to first climb a mountain over 19,000 feet to see if her body could acclimate and handle the altitude.lucy

After Rodney hung up the phone with the guide company and told Amy the news, she immediately knew it was their time to go to Uganda.  Uganda is only a day drive away from Mount Kilimanjaro, an accessible 19,314 foot mountain.  The Westlake family arrives in Uganda on January 1. Rodney and Lucy will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro January 7-14. Stay tuned to hear more about this family’s mission to Save Lives with Safe Water.  WaterStep is confident that this family will save one child, one family, one community at a time just as Lucy and her father, Rodney have climbed one mountain at a time.


To Read more about Lucy’s story of determination and perseverance, click here.




Saving Refugees in Nigeria: Part Three

Part Three of Saving Refugees in Nigera By Chris Kenning

nigeria-post-three-3As dawn broke over a camp of thousands of refugees in their own country, a crowd of Nigerian women gathered at a raised concrete water tank with yellow plastic buckets and ropes.

Roosters crowed, Islamic calls to prayer were sung in the distance and smoke from early morning cooking fires drifted over the thatch and blanket shelters of 24,000 hungry, thirsty and sick residents, pushed from their homes by the Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram and its fight with the army.

Atop the tank, I watched Sulaiman Gumi shine a flashlight on an “internally displaced person” volunteer, who he’d trained to measure out bleach the created the night before with a WaterStep device. After pouring it into the tank and waiting for it to work, he was taking a measurement, squinting at the test results to be sure the water was now safe.

As soon as the word was given, the crowd rushed the tank amid the sound of buckets splashing into water as dozens lined up containers.

We were in Mongonu, located northeast of Maiduguri, less than 20 miles from the border of Chad and Cameroon. Here, WaterStep’s Portable BleachMaker is making water safe for 24,000 residents with just a car battery, table salt and a team of volunteers. It’s all organized by Sulaiman’s Nigerian NGO, Victims of Violence, which is partnering with WaterStep to help bring relief.

Along with sanitation training, the BleachMaker is reducing the risk of waterborne illnesses from cholera to typhoid in a region where a humanitarian crisis has left millions in severe need of food, clean water nigeria-post-three-1and shelter – leading the UN to warn that tens of thousands of children could die in the coming months.

“When a child is already weakened by malnutrition and illness, a waterborne illness can kill them,” Sulaiman said, something reinforced when we came across a boy camped under a tree with his mother sick and unable to even stand.

The chlorination also ensures that water stays clean after being collected, instead of being contaminated immediately after because of poor sanitation, dirty collection points and open defecation in some areas of a camp.

It was one of the projects installed by Victims of Violence, who were trained and equipped by WaterStep after a visit to Louisville last year.

Another is in Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the capital of the war-torn Borno state.

There, a sprawling IDP camp was carved out of a civil service housing project whose construction was halted to house internally displaced persons. Here, many homes are made of sturdier wood and plastic sheeting.

In a school for 2,700 students – including orphans – Victims of Violence trained IDP teachers at the school to use WaterStep’s M-100 chlorinator, salt, and a car battery to purify a large tank that leads to taps exclusively for use of the children.

During one break on a hot morning, children rushed from the UNICEF tents used as classrooms to the water source, packing tight lines and jostling for a chance to cup their hands and drink.

Nigerian Army Captain Mohammed Lawal told us it’s helping reduce waterborne illness and, as a result, reducing absences from school.

nigeria-post-three-4On one day, Sulaiman trained volunteers at the camp’s other school, which serves 2,000 children, to use an M-100 to purify their own water.

But the need here is as big as an ocean. We came across an impromptu camp of rural farmers who were sick, living under scraps. An Army soldier pointed out the trench they’d dug to use in case of attack from Boko Haram, and residents were stomping out the remains of a thatch hut that had caught fire in the hot desert wind.

They had a well but it wasn’t chlorinated. And many still got their drinking water from a standing water used by cattle and for residents to bathe.

Not long after, Sulaiman was using paper to sketch out a plan for tanks, taps, pumps and pipes.

“I think we can help,” he said. “If we can bring them water from the riverbed, close to them, and chlorinate it, it would have a big impact.”

But all that takes time and money. Please consider helping.


If you have been inspired by Chris’s Updates from the field, please consider making a year end donation here.

Saving Refugees in Nigeria: Part Two

Thank You, Chris Kenning! This is the 2nd post in a series where volunteer Chris Kenning is documenting WaterStep’s work to save refugees in Nigeria.  Click here to read Chris’s first report.

chris-kenning-2We passed countless Nigerian Army and vigilante checkpoints before we pulled into Maiduguri, just before the city was sealed off for the night to guard against attack by Boko Haram. Even so, suicide bombers    would set off multiple explosions here before we left.

We’d arrived in the birthplace of Boko Haram in northeastern Borno state, after 12 hours of spine-crunching potholes in a Toyota Hi Lux loaded with WaterStep’s M100 water chlorinators, bleach makers and other humanitarian supplies. The landscape grew flatter and drier as we went toward the Sahara.

Driving was Sulaiman, the son of a renowned Nigerian Islamic leader and a mother with royal tribal roots.  He was taking time from his job as a civil and water engineer to lead the non-profit Victims of Violence.  It’s a group of several hundred Nigerian professionals who in part provide volunteer medical help, education and water aid to Nigerian’s humanitarian crisis.

The Army has recaptured a number of towns from the Islamic insurgents, who have killed more than 20,000 in recent years, abducted women and laid waste to the region. But now nearly 2 million are displaced from their homes, living in dusty, overburdened camps or impromptu settlements where shelters are made f branches and plastic scraps.

Millions, including some returning home, face severe shortages of food, clean water and shelter. Amid “famine-like conditions,” the UN has warned that 75,000 more children could starve to death in the coming months. And disrupted access to clean water is a breeding ground for disease like cholera and diarrhea.

Sulaiman and I had to get a military escort in order to drive to Mafa, where Boko Haram had attacked but was now in control of the government. We joined a convoy that included military trucks with soldiers carrying AK-47s on the back.  Along the way, we saw a charred tank and a truck riddled with bullets. Roadside trees had been cut and burned to reduce the chance of an ambush.chris-kenning-4

We found a ghost town, its large school turned into a camp for “internally displaced persons.”  Around the grounds were smoke from cooking fires and lean-tos made of branches or woven grass and blankets or tarps. Women lugged yellow plastic buckets to a water pipe set in mud, trash and bacteria. Others were getting water from a contaminated open well. A nurse from UNICEF told me that waterborne diarrhea was an issue, a problem that can mean trouble for an already weak and malnourished child.

We met locals who had returned home after the Army flushed out the jihadists only to find their town decimated, their homes destroyed and their crops and animals gone. One woman said that her plastic bucket was all she had left.  Her youngest child was malnourished and sick, she said.

Soon Sulaiman was hatching plans for tanks, pumps and new and cleaner sources of water to help.

“This project could really help here,” he said.

chris-kenning-1Along the road on the way back to Maiduguri, we stopped for some women and children who were indicating they were desperately thirsty.  We handed over the rest of our water. They were fleeing Boko Haram, they said.  Sulaiman said we’d take them to the next military checkpoint. They climbed in the bed of the pickup.

“I checked them for suicide bombs,” he said as we got back in the truck.

At the checkpoint, the soldiers chided us for taking such as risk.  Many women had exploded bombs. And indeed, a couple of days later, suicide bombers struck that very outpost.

Read more about WaterStep’s work in Nigeria soon.