Kenyang Nhomot and James Abiem are celebrating news that both their hometowns in the Republic of South Sudan have access to clean water. The wells were built this winter by the International Aid Service, a faith-based European organization that helps communities not only build wells, but teaches locals about the well's mechanics and disease prevention.
“This village has never had water,” said Nhomot. “When it was done everybody was very happy.”
Photos showing the water is flowing came from International Aid Service a few weeks ago, said Sister Madonna Moran, who teaches both men English with the Sisters of Mercy at St. Anne-St. Augustine Parish in Manchester.
The organization also sent a report and messages from the town leaders about their other goals now that the search for water is over.
Both men give credit to the Sisters of Mercy for the success of the well project. Last summer, Nhomot returned from a trip to South Sudan and was distraught that his family was struggling to find fresh water and food. At his English class, he told the sisters and parishioner Annette Boucher what he saw.
They were so moved by the story, they began searching for a way to help.
The sisters started fundraising, beginning with a few letters — then many more letters — sent by Sister Anastasia Smith.
About 230 people responded with donations. In a few months, the sisters were able to raise not only the $13,000 needed for the well in Abeyi-Kiir, Nhomot's hometown, but another $13,000 for a well in the town of Mengar Ayiou, where Abiem is from.
Nhomot said the people who have since passed through his town couldn't believe there is a functioning well there. They asked how it was possible, he said.
“I told them I talked to the sisters at church and God helped us get this through,” said Nhomot.
Abiem said he, too, recently visited his hometown and that water was very scarce. Before his arrival, people rationed water, reserving it for their coming guests. The lack of basic needs was difficult for Abiem to see, he said.
“Those things made me cry,” Abiem said.
There were once more than 800 people living in his town, Abiem said, but the Sudanese civil war, which resulted in the country splitting in two, forced many to flee. Now that there is fresh water, the people are returning, he said.
“The sisters showed us the way to get water. They showed our people how the get a life (that's) new,” said Abiem.
Now that his town has water, Abiem said the women and girls no longer have to search and walk for miles to transport fresh water. Nhomot and Abiem said they hope to bring schools to their communities and these girls and boys can use their time to get an education, an opportunity they never had.
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