Louisville charity ready to help in Syria

Rescuers carry an injured girl out of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked areas of Turkey and Syria early that morning, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 7,700 people. (OSV News photo/Sertac Kayar, Reuters)

As search and rescue workers continue to recover the thousands of earthquake casualties in Turkey and Syria, offers of aid have poured in from the international community.

Among those mobilizing to help is Louisville-based Water With Blessings, which provides easy-to-use water filters that can be quickly shipped and distributed to families in need.

The water charity, operated by Ursuline Sister Larraine Lauter, already has a footprint in Syria, which has been at war since 2011.

In 2016, when parts of Syria were under increased attacks, Water With Blessings partnered with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Aleppo, a city in central Syria severely affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake and aftershocks.

Filters sent from the United States went to Aleppo, where Sister Annie Demerjian and three other sisters trained women to use the filters and asked them to share their clean water with others in need.

From 2016 and into 2017, Water With Blessings provided filters and training to 1,350 women. Some of those women, along with the sisters, will be the boots on the ground for Water With Blessings’ effort to help now.

Sister Demerjian was in touch with Sister Lauter on the morning of Feb. 6, soon after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and powerful aftershocks struck. She reported from Aleppo that the sisters were safe and still experiencing aftershocks. A friend, a priest she called Father Imad (now identified as Father Imad Daher), was buried under rubble and later found dead.

She asked Sister Lauter to hold them all in prayer.

‘Water systems, being very rigid construction, are without doubt destroyed.’ Sister Larraine Lauter

Sister Lauter, who is in Honduras working on a water project, said by email that she expects potable water to be a serious need in Syria’s quake zones.

She said the war-torn country’s infrastructure “is still very weakened by the war and heavy shelling, so that made their water infrastructure even more vulnerable. Water systems, being very rigid construction, are without doubt destroyed.”

Water With Blessings, which relies on donations to carry out its work, aims to send pallets of filter kits to Aleppo. A pallet, Sister Lauter said, holds 75 kits — each kit contains a bucket, water storage pouch, training materials and a Sawyer PointOne water filter.

The cost of a pallet is $5,625 (or $75 per kit). Each pallet can provide safe drinking water to about 3,000 people during a disaster, said Sister Lauter. And if the user cares for the filter properly, it can provide water for decades.

Filters “in the hands of properly trained mothers, will last for many years, possibly a lifetime,” she said. “This population and their supporting infrastructure was already vulnerable. … It will be even harder than ‘normal’ to recover the basic infrastructure to support an urban population.”

To support Water With Blessings’ efforts, visit the website, waterwithblessings.org/donate/, or send a check to Water With Blessings at 1902 Campus Place, Suite 11, Louisville, Ky., 40299.


This story was updated to include the last name of Father Imad Daher, who died in the earthquake in Syria.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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