Water charity marks first anniversary

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Sister Larraine Lauter (right) worked on a water purification system with volunteers, Kristen Rosser (left) of Benedictine College and Caisey Whelan (center) of St. Gabriel Church.  Photo Special to The Record by Jeremy Ruzich.
Sister Larraine Lauter (right) worked on a water purification system with volunteers, Kristen Rosser (left) of Benedictine College and Caisey Whelan (center) of St. Gabriel Church. Photo Special to The Record by Jeremy Ruzich.

When Water with Blessings offers its supporters a glass of water, you can bet the drink came from an unsavory source. Water from Floyd’s Fork is on the menu at the charity’s June 23 event to celebrate its first full year of operations and new location.

Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph Larraine Lauter is the executive director and she guarantees the water is safe. It will be passed through a simple but effective water purification system, just like ones Water with Blessings distributes to mothers in impoverished communities around the globe.

“It’s cleaner than tap water,” said Sister Lauter during a recent interview. “And 99.999 percent of all contaminants are removed. You can’t beat that.”

That’s why she’s on a mission to bring these purifiers to places that lack clean water. She believes contaminated water is one of the biggest and easily solved problems facing the world today.

She used to do mission trips that brought medical help to impoverished communities, she noted. She and other volunteers noticed that most of the health problems in children were caused by parasites contracted through tainted water. The volunteers could treat the children during the trip but they were sure to contract parasites over and over again as long as their water was contaminated.

“Once the medical team is gone, the medical care is gone,” she noted. “The most bang for your buck is clean water. If you give them clean water you change everything.”

Sister Lauter and several others who recognized this problem found a simple system contained in a plastic five-gallon bucket that can provide water to about 10 people for about 10 years.

And they’ve found a unique way to distribute the systems. Anyone who’s planning a mission trip can take these systems with them.

“We’re looking for church groups that go anywhere or other faith-based organizations,” said Sister Lauter. “This month I’m working with the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati. They are going to do this in Juarez, Mexico.”

Volunteers are asked to organize the distribution of the systems during the mission trips, but women in the local areas train themselves to use the systems.

Volunteers also are asked to help with child care while the women learn to use the systems.

The charity also needs donors and advocates to help raise money. Generally, a $100 donation pays for one system.

Catholic Charities has helped Water with Blessings in its first year — providing office space and translation services.

Now its moving to a new location in Middletown. It will celebrate its move and first full year as a non-profit organization at 4:30 p.m. on June 23 at 11714 Main Street in Middletown.

“We owe lots and lots of thanks to Catholic Charities,” she said, noting that the agency has translated the Water with Blessings manual into several languages.

So far, the manual is offered in Hindi, Spanish, Creole and Telegu (India) “and just about any language Catholic Charities has to offer, we can do,” she said.

The purification systems have been taken to Liberia, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, El Salvador, South Sudan, Bolivia, Liberia, Peru, Guatemala, Uganda, Nicaragua and India. The charity is preparing to send them to Haiti and Jamaica.

Parishioners of the Church of the Epiphany go on mission trips every year and have managed to provide about 400 purifiers that are providing clean water to about 4,000 people, Sister Lauter said.

Mike Fitzgerald, an Epiphany member and a founding board member of Water with Blessings, said that once he saw the effect of clean water first hand, he couldn’t stop helping. Most recently, in March, he and others took 100 systems to Honduras.

“These kids, if they get an ordinary disease they can die from it” because their bodies are weakened by malnutrition and parasites, he noted.

“The fact that they have clean water now, it’s a dramatic difference,” he said. “They’re running around laughing and they’re happy. And it’s because they don’t have parasites. They get this gift of clean water and share it with a couple of neighbors.

“Every time we hook up with a group, they come back and say, ‘We’ve got to keep doing it,’ ” he said. “Having seen what it can do, it’s something you can’t neglect.”

Those interested in seeing the purifiers in action can attend the June 23 event.

Honduran women, below, prayed and offered thanks to God during their training to use the systems. Photo Special to The Record
Honduran women prayed and offered thanks to God during their training to use the systems. Photo Special to The Record
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