You can help people in Kenya build much-needed dams

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | April 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Center for Mission’s Living Water Program provides funds for Diocese of Kitui

LivingWaterBottleAn African woman visited a park in Red Wing during the fall of 2012. Tears streamed down her face as she sat on a bench and watched the abundant water flow down the Mississippi River.

Water is scarce in the woman’s homeland.

Many people in the drought-stricken villages near Kitui, Kenya, walk for miles to collect water each day. They dig deep holes in the earth and wait for muddy water to trickle in — water much different from the water that flows freely from multiple faucets in American homes.

In response to this need for water, the archdiocesan Center for Mission in St. Paul established the Living Water Program last year. The program supports the goals of the partnership between the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Kitui.

The two-week Living Water Program encourages participants to share the life-giving water of the Easter season, both literally and spiritually.

Catholic school students and parishioners in the archdiocese can collect money in water bottles for the construction of earthen dams that hold sporadic, but precious, rainwater in rural Kitui. Spiritually, participants share living water by offering prayers as they learn about the lives of people in Kitui.

“We are connected to our brothers and sisters in Africa,” said Mike Haasl, global solidarity coordinator for the Center for Mission. “The Living Water project is totally in line with what Pope Francis wants us to do ­— to be a mission-oriented Church, attentive to one another across the world in solidarity.”

To donate and learn more about Living Water

Contact Mike Haasl at or (651) 291-4504. To learn more about the Center for Mission, visit

Solidarity and sustainability

Last year, the Church of St. Joseph in Red Wing raised more than $7,000 for the Living Water Program.

LoriAnn Myers, St. Joseph’s faith formation director, attributed the program’s success to the personal connections created when delegates from Kitui visited Red Wing in 2012.

Parishioners recognized many faces in the pictures used to introduce the Living Water Program during Masses. The description of the Kitui woman watching the Mississippi River came from the memory of one of Myers’ faith formation students.

“I was blown away by the support of the parish,” Myers said. “The kids received water bottles, filled them with coins and then refilled them again. Giant water cooler bottles were placed in the back of church, and you could hear the money sliding into the bottles before each Mass.”

Myers used the Living Water Program as a foundation to discuss solidarity and sustainability with the high school-aged faith formation students. The students saw pictures of the Kitui bishop blessing a new backhoe purchased in part with funds collected through the Living Water Program. Students talked about how building the community-owned dams would speed up exponentially with the help of mechanical equipment.

Global perspective

During Lent this year, Holy Cross Catholic School in Webster implemented the Living Water Program for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. They raised more than $800 and gained a new appreciation of water in the sacraments and in daily life.

“Our students live in a rural community, and the Living Water project opened their eyes to a much bigger, broader world,” said Holy Cross Principal Lisa Simon. “All of the students, K-8, really got it, and several parents thanked me for exposing the kids to the needs of people outside our community.”

Construction costs for each earthen dam averages approximately $35,000. Each dam serves about 1,250 people (250 households).

Last year, the Living Water pilot generated about $23,000, with nine parishes and five schools participating. This year, with 14 parishes and six schools participating, the Center for Mission hopes to exceed that amount.

Category: Local News