Emmaus Partnership project is continuing to transform lives of communities in south western Uganda

World Water Day, held on 22nd March every year since 1993, is an annual United Nations Observance focusing on the importance of freshwater. It’s a day that celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Right now some 2.2 billion people are living without safely managed drinking water, including 115 million people who have to survive by drinking surface water, with all the dangers of disease and illness that this brings.

Even in the most remote and unlikely of settings, it’s actually not that difficult to create the facilities to deliver a regular, sustainable flow of pure, clean water – but the communities that need it most are often those without even the modest financial resources to undertake such a project.

Aware of the severity of this problem, staff at St Edward’s School in Hampshire – a day and residential special education Catholic school in the Clifton Diocese that provides care and education for boys who experience social, emotional and mental health difficulties (SEMH) – initiated The Emmaus Project.

Set up in 2021 to supply 22 schools in the Masaka district of SW Uganda with water to satisfy their drinking, hygiene, sanitation and irrigation needs, the Emmaus Project has made remarkable progress towards its aims through a carefully managed and co-ordinated programme of building works undertaken in conjunction with a number of major partners, including an established NGO, local engineers on the ground and lead partners WaterHarvest.

Back at home The Emmaus team have been working closely and very actively with the Diocese of Clifton to create awareness within Catholic schools in the diocese of how precious access to a reliable fresh water supply is, and how schools and individuals can transform the lives and wellbeing of others through giving to water supply and sanitation schemes.

School presentations have explained how Emmaus and WaterHarvest have already constructed 33 x 20,000 litre water-harvesting tanks, including four tanks in St Jude’s RC Primary, Lubanda, Kiwangala Primary and Nakateete Primary schools, five in St Maria Gorreth school and six in Notre Dame RC High school and Happy Hours Primary.

In the current phase of work, contractor Water Earth Green Services Ltd has mobilised its entire workforce of 24 men to construct 14 x 20,000 litre tanks in the St Emmanuel and St Ann primary schools and this phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of April, after which the project moves onto Phase 6 with another 14 tanks in Kiwanyi Primary School and the St Mary’s Vocational Institute.

“The Emmaus partnership cannot emphasise enough the huge significance the project has made thus far in the lives of the seven communities in which construction has been completed,” said Stephen Whelan, Head of RE at St Edward’s and Mission and Ethos Lead for Emmaus.

“Our Impact analysis shows clearly that the nominal roll has increased by 171 in the first three schools, they have employed five new teachers and, most significantly, girls are now able to attend school five days a week as their hygiene needs are now being met. The availability of clean water is having a beneficial effect on the health of staff and pupils and the schools are now able to irrigate substantial tree nurseries which allows them to supplement their diet with fresh fruit,” says Stephen.

“The schools are currently training their staff to manage and maintain their tanks and local communities are being allowed by individual Head Teachers to access fresh water during the lengthy ‘dry seasons’ in Uganda. In the local area around each school, people are being employed as casual labourers to help the construction teams move materials or to cast the thousands of ‘bricks’ needed to build each tank.

“Local women have elected to cook meals for the construction teams and the schools themselves have made accommodation available. In effect, Emmaus has inspired a community response to a project that is breaking the cycle of poverty in this part of Uganda.”

The Emmaus team is now actively seeking funding support and donations so that further water projects can be planned and implemented, transforming the communities they will serve.

“We are not prepared to live in a world where children either have to walk several miles to collect drinking water or suffer illness and time off school because the water they have is unclean,” says Stephen.

“We have set ourselves the task of providing water for the children of 22 schools in the Masaka district of South West Uganda to meet their WASH needs; for drinking, cleaning, cooking and the irrigation of their tree nurseries. We are doing this one school at a time and, with the help of family, friends and businesses we aim to break the cycle of poverty in Masaka.”

If you would like to know more about the Emmaus Project, involve your school, or make an individual donation …

you are welcome to contact Stephen Whelan directly via his email:


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