Group works to finance well

Ministry Spotlight is the La Cañada Valley Sun's occasional series on area ministries and their activities.

To help combat the lack of suitable drinking water in third-world countries, La Cañada Presbyterian Church's Parent Education Program is holding a fundraising campaign through Generosity Water, a Los Angeles-based charity which helps dig wells in third-world countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Laos, Malawi and Ghana.

Parent Education, which holds classes for parents and children, is selling blue or silver stainless-steel water bottles, emblazoned with the Generosity Water logo, for $15 each. For every bottle sold, $5 will go toward financial support of Parent Education's programs, with the rest going toward digging one well that will be capable of sustaining 400 people in a third-world country for 20 years.

According to Generosity Water, more than 1 billion people around the world do not have access to water that is free of contamination, and one child dies every 15 seconds from a water-related disease.

As a mother of two young children, La Cañada Presbyterian Church Generosity Water Chairwoman Dede Cook cannot fathom a world without suitable drinking water for her family. Yet, she said, this is a fact of life for millions of families living in some of the world's poorest regions.

"I think there are a lot of people, especially in these communities, who are unaware that this crisis exists," said Cook, a La Cañada resident. "I can't imagine my 7-year-old son coming to me and saying 'I'm thirsty,' and I have to say to him, 'Well, tomorrow you can have water, because we have none today.'"

What's more frustrating, said Parent Education Program Director Anne Bierling, is that most areas have a workable water table. Yet, people living in those areas lack the technology or money to gain access to it.

Bierling chose to spearhead the fundraiser at La Cañada Presbyterian after attending a conference this summer and listening to a presentation by Generosity Water.

"Originally, our goal was a well," said Bierling. "But now the response has been so great that now we would like to build not just one well. Once the money is earned for a well, Generosity Water selects the community. They dig the well."

The new well will be built in the name of La Cañada Presbyterian's Parent Education Program at a location where it will benefit the most people, said Cook. Upon completion of the well, Generosity Water will provide photographs and global positioning satellite coordinates, should church representatives choose to visit the well site in the future.

As a former member of the Peace Corps, Parent Education Marketing and Publicity Chairwoman Noelle Duryee can attest to the toll a lack of suitable drinking water can have on a population.

"My part of the [Peace Corps] project was assisting as a midwife, so I watched several women go through excruciating births because they were dehydrated," said Duryee. "I didn't actually see or participate in the burying, or the memorials, of children that actually died, but I am very aware that there were several who died. The infant mortality rate is very high because of a lack of an essential thing like water."

As of Monday, Parent Education has sold about 355 bottles, halfway to their goal of 600 bottles. For every 600 bottles sold, Generosity Water will be able to dig one well, possibly more. Each well costs roughly $3,000, with some areas being more expensive than others, said Bierling.

"The excitement is latching on," said Ginger Wilson, board chairwoman of the Parent Education Program. "I think one of the reasons people responded so positively to this is that it meets a social need, a sustainable need and a personal need. It hits from all angles."

The bottles make a great stocking stuffer and can be bought in bulk, said Bierling. They can be used by individuals and sports teams, which cuts down on the waste that traditional plastic bottles produce, she said. To order bottles, call the church's Parent Education office at (818) 790-6708, Ext. 205. Parent Education will also have a table set up for people to place orders from 9:15 to noon on Nov. 21, and Dec. 5 and 12. A table will also be set up during Parent Education's annual Advent celebration at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 8.

"We're not going to change a billion people, said Cook. "But slowly we might start lowering that number. The more people are aware of it, the more that number will change. It's going to happen because people get involved and say, 'we want to help.'"

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