“Wash your hands.” We hear it nonstop. With the advent of the Coronavirus, it has never been more important. Yet, for many women and children in desperate circumstances, it has never been harder to do.
The Comboni Missionaries partnered with Water with Blessings in 2017 to begin a water filter project in Uganda. We first set to work in Palorinya, a refugee settlement for those fleeing violence in South Sudan.
Jim Wilhite, a tireless volunteer, has been training water women in Uganda ever since. For those forced to drink from ditches, “Death is always at their doorstep,” Jim says.
The program has grown to include the nearby community of Lodonga, where the need is equally desperate. Last year, Jim visited the area with two local Sisters and launched the new effort. “Sister Rose and Sister Maureen,” Jim says, “are expert water women trainers. At this time, Sister Rose is at the Sisters of the Heart of Jesus Convent in Moyo and Sister Maureen is living in the Comboni House in the Palorinya settlement west of Moyo.”
Of course, the pandemic made a challenging situation nearly impossible. “In the last few months COVID-19 has been in control, not allowing us to travel back to Uganda to bring the water filter kits to the mothers waiting to be trained,” Jim says. But he’s not one to be deterred.
“I have learned that God doesn’t give us patience, he gives us the opportunity for patience.”
He and the team are putting that patience to good work, and keeping the good work going. “Our plan at this time is to work to get donations for water filter kits and ship them to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus convent in Moyo, Uganda. Sister Florence will rally the training team of Sisters and the water women trainers in the villages when it is safe to travel outside the walls of the convent. We would like to get 180 kits for the work in the Palorinya villages and 180 kits for the villages at Lodonga where we also have been working to bring clean safe water.”
Even though travel is impossible right now, Jim remains resolute, “I will never give up nor will I ever quit until the last thirsty child drinks clean, safe water,” he vows.
The program has been an answer to prayers for hundreds of women and families who have suffered from the effects of drinking dirty water— diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, polio, and typhoid. “Tears are prayers,” Jim says. “They travel to God when we can’t speak.”
Volunteer Jim Wilhite with Sisters of the Sacred Heart, demonstrating a water filter for the first time in Lodonga, Uganda, in 2019.