By Bill Britton for The Island Connection
There are currently 23,000 residents on Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, of which 3,700 are at or below the poverty level. The most disturbing statistic is that 90 percent of the children on these islands are living below the poverty level.
Surprisingly (and disturbingly), many of these residents do not have clean, safer water in their homes. With no alternative, the people are buying water from the grocery store to drink and cook with, something they can ill afford to do. They are spending a premium for what most people take for granted. Their money could be going for books, clothing and food, but it is going to buy water!
Many of these people have wells in bad repair or the wells simply don’t work any longer. With age or flooding from weather disasters, many problems exist with people’s private water supply. Most of these “in need” people cannot afford the hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair or replace their wells. Some have never even had a well; they get water from a neighbor.
This is an astonishing situation and one that exists right here where we live. The most pressing need for clean water is the homes on Wadmalaw Island. This low-lying, less populated island has no municipal water, whereas the more populated Johns Island has a municipal water system that serves many of its residents. Based on the smaller populated area of Wadmalaw, and with no funding in sight, it is highly unlikely this island will have municipal water to serve its residents anytime in the near future. The estimate by water officials has been $30 million to bring water to Wadmalaw. The numbers just don’t work.
Being a barrier island and so close to sea level, the well water is not always safe to drink. Over time, rusty pipes can develop leading to unsafe drinking water which can also be high in sulfur content. The health status of many parents and young children are at risk without clean water.
In early 2016, the Sea Islands Hunger Awareness Foundation (SIHAF), a non-profit on Johns Island, began to recognize the lack of clean water in homes.
After finding this out, the Foundation went to work to help find a solution; a solution that would help bring clean water to these homes, even if it was one house at a time.
In February of 2016, a committee of seven volunteers from SIHAF formed the Water Wellness Mission which became an affiliate of the Foundation. Their mission was helping to identify and help one family at a time obtain clean water. Since starting over nine months ago, Water Wellness has quickly raised $45,000.
The need is large. The hearts and pocketbooks opened up. People reacted. They graciously responded with donations.
As of early September 2016, all the money raised has gone directly for the cost of installing new wells and water filtration systems for six families on Wadmalaw. The average cost per family to install the well, pump, tank and a water filtration system is $5,000. The Water Wellness goal is to raise $75,000 in the first year which will help 15 families.
The Water Wellness Mission effort is now driven by eight volunteers. The group’s duties include raising money, communicating with its database and donors, and organizing and supervising all work performed to provide the wells and water filtration systems for the families. Each family receiving a well is visited by a committee member. After filling out an application and their need is verified by the Water Wellness committee, the applying family is approved and placed on the waiting list for a new well. To date, there are over 15 applications from people who do not have clean water and the list continues to grow.
The group’s sole source of funds are from donations and grants. With so many struggling families in need of clean water, we would like to ask for your support to help these families obtain a well.
Whether you are a business, an individual or a non-profit, we need your help. In our country, in our time, in our community this should not be happening. Clean water is a basic need for everyone.
Visit fightislandhunger.org/water-wellnessmission for more details and to donate.