"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

“Somewhere It Hides a Well”

By S. Mary Ann Flannery

Clean running water comes flowing from one of the unit panels.

Author Angie Kim claims to have been inspired by Antoine de Saint Exupery’s famous book, The Little Prince, when she was a child in Seoul, Korea. The lines that riveted her attention were, “One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams. What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”

No one knows this better than S. Victoria Anyanwu.

S. Victoria has been making periodic visits to her native Nigeria where she began providing medical service in 2006. She is a nurse working in Cincinnati. She started doing medical assessments of the people in her village of Umunagbor and eventually secured six physicians to do 685 evaluations of villagers. She and the doctors found that everyone who was evaluated suffered from diseases that could be directly attributed to the contaminated water they drank and used for bathing, washing clothes and doing household chores. People in surrounding villages exhibited the same illnesses because of contaminated water. She shudders when she describes the water people had access to saying, “It was all scum, no oxygen. It was brown muddy water. Nothing could live in this water from ponds scattered throughout the villages.”

Year-after-year S. Victoria saw the illnesses increase. She asked herself, “Why treat the results of contaminated water without getting to the cause?”

Eventually, she thought the best way to resolve the problem would be to create wells that would bring clean water to the surface. “I knew the water was there; we had to bring it up through wells,” she said. But, bringing up the water would require the power of generators so she enlisted the help of S. Louise Lears to work on estimating the costs of purchasing generators to pump the water from far under the desert-dry ground. At first this seemed like a dream. “Each of 10 villages was to get a generator but the cost of fuel tripled due to a new government and its policies.” So, Plan B went into action.

S. Victoria Anyanwu (back left) says her clean water project will boost both personal and household sanitary conditions and will promote good health and quality of life.

“I love to bargain,” said S. Victoria, with a wide smile and her head shaking as she chuckled. “I thought I should get solar panels and not rely on fuel-driven generators.  Nobody was using solar in the villages. They could learn more from this, too.” She approached a company to purchase and install solar panels and they agreed to help because they liked her mission for clean water. A solar panel could be set up for a well in each of five villages at a cost of $3,600 each. S. Victoria used the money from selling the generators and from donors and was able to purchase the panels for five wells. Next, she had to drill the wells.

After careful research, S. Victoria and her advisers determined that one well could service two villages amounting to five wells for 10 villages, a total of $60,520. They also found that they had to drill 600 feet and install a tubular casing to prevent the well hole from collapsing, and then cover the costs of the tanks, wiring for power, control panels, storm protectors on the solar panels, chemical treatments, and labor. Today, the wells are running with clean water 24/7. Coming to the wells is easier than walking long distances to the fetid pools as in the past. No longer do villagers have to buy precious water and purchase fuel for generators or keep barrels and pails filled with rain water. She feels a deep sense of personal pride for her own village of Umunagbor Ihitte as a daughter of the people making their lives so much better.  

No one could be happier than S. Victoria. “My mission is to give glory to God,” she says wistfully. She believes that the water project will keep people healthier and that is surely a way of praising God. She recounts how her mother taught her to give what she could to make life better for others. “My mother had a difficult pregnancy when she carried me. She almost died when I was born so when I lived and she lived, she dedicated me to God,” says S. Victoria.

But she was Biafran and life was not easy growing up as a Biafran in Nigeria’s political environment. Stories of starving Biafrans in the 1970s rang in my ears as S. Victoria recalled the strife in southeastern Nigeria where Biafra existed and then receded from Nigeria as a separate state in 1967 only to be reclaimed in 1970. “I am Biafran and we have suffered much under Nigeria’s government and we continue to be disregarded. I want to help my people.” She added that Biafrans are intelligent people who want to go back to their agricultural roots devising ways to provide water for crops. “The villagers were so happy they said they would make me a king!” She laughed uproariously as they told her this. “All over water, something we take for granted.”

S. Victoria Anyanwu has found a way to help her poor village and other villages all because she realized that under the barren ground “something throbs and gleams and makes the desert beautiful (because) somewhere it hides a well.”

Donations for this project can be made to:
Vicki Humphrey
Finance Office
Sisters of Charity
5900 Delhi Rd.
Mount St. Joseph, Ohio  45051 

Quotes from Angie Kim taken from “Inside the List,” column written by Elisabeth Egan, New York Times Book Review, p. 24. October 8, 2023.    

Construction of the tank stand.

Digging the bore holes.

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