Precious Gift

December 22 2023 | by

LA MAISON Divine Providence (House of Divine Providence) provides shelter to street kids in the city of Butembo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sister Marie Judith Irma Mafoua, or Sister Giuditta to her friends, had been caring for these children and young people since 2017, when it became evident that a more permanent solution needed to be found. In 2020, together with her right-hand man, Mr. Jackson Mbusa Kisonia, a graduate in clinical psychology who now not only follows the children, but also works as a handyman for the La Maison, she set up La Maison Divine Providence Association. Then, with the help of some Italian people, they set about building the ‘village’ in the Bulengera commune of the city, to welcome street kids and give them a future.

They bought some land where now they have already built a pharmacy and dispensary, the Maison des Enfants or house for young children, and the Amis du Christ (Friend of Christ) for older children. In the planning are a convent for the nuns, a chapel, and a second house to accommodate even more of the street children. During 2021 and 2022 St. Anthony’s Charities helped finance a project to build a secure perimeter wall.


Clean water


There was, however, one thing that had been eluding La Maison, a clean water supply. There had been plans for a well, but a study had concluded that there was ground rock at a depth of 6 metres and so the plans were shelved. They also thought about connecting to a source 600 metres away, but this also wasn’t feasible. So, for a time, they continued to rely on weekly supplies.

But a proposal in June 2022 from the Brothers of the Assumptionists Construction Office, which had followed and previously carried out some works for La Maison, changed perceptions. The proposal was to create boreholes by drilling to a depth of 100 metres, which would then be able to supply drinking water to the two children’s residences, the pharmacy and dispensary, the future convent and the new children’s residence. It could also provide a distribution service outside the village walls. After drilling, the water would first be tested for quality and, all being well, PVC pipes and filters would be fitted, solar-powered pumps installed, and storage containers put in place. The latter would also require new walls to support them – some containers would be at a height of 3 metres, and some higher. In total the containers would store 20,000 litres. In total, the cost of the proposed project would be just over €43,000 and, after a contribution of €8,800 from the Sisters, the sum requested from St. Anthony’s Charities, which was later approved, was €34,200.


Two instalments


The first instalment was received in January 2023 and work began by demolishing a low wall to allow access for drilling equipment. “Some days were then lost due to heavy rains,” reports Sister Giuditta. “At a depth of 45 metres, though, a layer of rock prevented drilling from continuing, so the works were moved a few metres and we tried again. It took a further three attempts before we were able to reach a depth of 75 metres, and the water there was confirmed through analysis to be potable.” The repeated drilling attempts caused some delays at the start of the project, but it was then possible to insert the pump and secure the pipes necessary to transport the water to where the storage tanks would be placed.

The second instalment arrived in March 2023, but more difficulties lay ahead. “We had to identify a new position for the water tanks,” says Sister Giuditta. “This was because it was not possible to buy the two 10,000 litre tanks we wanted, but instead we had to buy four 5,000 litre tanks. This meant new spaces were required to get them to the required height.” It was determined that one tank could be placed behind the Maison des Enfants, which would be able to serve both it and the nearby kitchen and laundry. The other three could be positioned behind the pharmacy and dispensary to serve in that building, the Amis du Christ, and two external service points. Once the works were completed, further analyses were carried out on the water quality, and it was found to be excellent. The project was signed off by the middle of June 2023.


Immense joy


The completion of the project has brought about a better quality of life at La Maison. There are no longer any worries about health due to incorrect use of rain or spring water, and no dangerous journeys to collect water, either. In addition to the 21 children and young people housed at La Maison, and the numerous kids who still live on the street, but who benefit from it as a point of reference where they can shower, get treatments, and have a hot meal, it’s estimated that the new water supply will help at least 200 families from the area and, over time, more from further afield.

“We have finally reached the conclusion of the work on the well,” says Father Tonino, the project’s Italian-based intermediary. “The project that, thanks to you all, we were able to carry out, has been very challenging, and there were many problems that we had to face. But now we have reached the end. Our joy is immense in seeing the complete tranquillity of the children in La Maison, as well as both children and others who frequent the dispensary, and who can now drink and wash themselves peacefully. Even preparing food has become easier. But there is something else that is, perhaps, even more beautiful: all the inhabitants from the nearby villages can come and stock up on drinking water. Already, many mothers from the nearest village have come with joy and gratitude to get their first water supplies.”


Deep gratitude


“I thank St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony on behalf of all the children and young people who live in our facilities for the precious gift of water you have given us,” concludes Sister Giuditta. “For us, it was an immense gift of Divine Providence, because water is life, and all the people who are using it say thank you with all their heart.”

Updated on November 30 2023