Clean Water for Congo: One Family’s Story of Transformation

By CKC Project Manager Cat Knarr


When Bernadette wants to collect water for her family, she picks up her jug and walks a few minutes away to a kiosk. There, clean water sprays from a faucet, pouring out until it fills up her jug all the way.

“Beforehand we had a lot of pain getting water, and now we have good water,” Bernadette said. “It’s beautiful.”

The short walk to the kiosk is a stark contrast to the mile that Bernadette used to walk to get to a dirty stream. It took an hour for her to walk there and back, and she could see how dirty the grayish water was—but back then, she had no other option. It was the only water available.

“It had a bad taste and there were animals in it,” Bernadette said. “Other people were going to the bathroom nearby.”

As the CKC team talked to Bernadette and her husband, Serge Jackson, we learned what a significant impact clean water has made for them and their four children. Their kids haven’t gotten sick in more than six months, the shorter walk is much easier in the 90- to 100-degree heat, and they no longer have to fear for their safety while walking on the dangerously remote path to the dirty stream.

“We thank God very much,” Serge Jackson said.

How It Works

Bernadette fills up her jug at the nearby World Vision water kiosk.

Bernadette fills up her jug at the nearby World Vision water kiosk.

Bernadette and her family make up six of the 24,000 people who now have access to clean water in the city of Gemena in northwest Congo. There, Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision is working together with the local Congolese churches (the Covenant church, the Evangelical Free church, and the Catholic church) to drill new water wells and manage the water distribution.

In remote areas of Congo, clean water is a rarity. When Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision first came to Gemena, the World Vision DR Congo office did an assessment and found that only 11% of people had access to clean water. Now, that’s changing. Two new deep water wells with water towers, solar-powered pumping stations, and multiple points of distribution within the village have been drilled, and a third is on the way. Johnson Mawaba, the Gemena Program Manager for World Vision, said that a total of 13 wells are planned over the 15- to 18-year duration of the Covenant Kids Congo project. Each of these deep water wells will provide water for 12,000 to 20,000 Gemena residents.

Drilling the wells is no easy process, since the equipment needs to be imported from outside the country to a very remote area of Congo that you can only reach by boat or plane. But once clean water spouts from the ground, the impact is life-changing.

Clean Water and Childhood Health

When combined with sanitation and hygiene training, clean water has the power to dramatically reduce child mortality. Bernadette and Serge Jackson have seen how much healthier their kids are now that they have clean water. Before that, their children frequently got sick.

“They were sick to their stomach,” Bernadette said. “They’d cry because they had pain in their stomach.”

Serge Jackson shared what a dramatic difference clean water has made to their children’s health.

“The children used to have more diarrhea and other intestinal things, and now it’s been six months or longer and we haven’t had a dispensary visit for our children at all,” Serge Jackson said. “Our whole neighborhood is very grateful.”

Serge Jackson’s daughter Sara shared that she no longer has back pain, because she doesn’t have to carry a heavy jug of water uphill for a mile anymore. The jug weighs 40 pounds or more when full.

“When we had to go to the stream, our backs would hurt because you’re walking and carrying water for a long time,” Sara said. “It was painful. But now we don’t have back problems and back pain anymore.”

A Safer Environment for Families

Bernadette takes us down the path she used to walk to the dirty stream, as Sara follows.

Bernadette takes us down the path she used to walk to the dirty stream, as her stepdaughter Sara follows.

After talking to the family, the CKC team walked with Bernadette to the dirty stream where she used to collect water. There, we could see why Serge Jackson had told us earlier that he had feared for the safety of his wife and children when they walked to that distant stream. The paths were tight and secluded.

Serge Jackson said that women and children faced the danger of sexual violence, as well as other attacks, like having your water jug stolen.

“It was very difficult to get water,” Serge Jackson said. “Women used to have to go three or four together because of the dangers of getting water a long distance away. But now we’re much more at ease because can just walk a few minutes to get water. It’s much easier for us, and there’s much less fear.”

Serge Jackson thanked the local Congolese churches, World Vision, and CKC donors, who’ve all partnered to build and maintain the water system.

“Now we have good health,” he said. “Now you can go and get water in five minutes. You walk there, get water, and come home.”

Hear Bernadette and Serge Jackson tell their family’s story on video. Look for a new CKC WASH video coming out by early fall. Stay up to date by subscribing to email updates or liking Covenant Kids Congo on Facebook.

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