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Indonesian priest ends water ordeal

Now village children can concentrate on school and their health has improved
Indonesian priest ends water ordeal

People of Sambikoe village welcome guests during the inauguration ceremony of the clean water project on Aug.16. (Photo by Markus Makur/ucanews.com)

Published: September 25, 2018 05:05 AM GMT
Updated: September 25, 2018 05:09 AM GMT

Bitter childhood memories of a lack of clean water moved Father Tus Mansuetus in adulthood to tackle the problem.

Born and raised in the Indonesian village of Sambikoe in economically poor East Nusa Tenggara province, Father Mansuetus of the Divine Word Society clearly recalls the three-kilometer return trek to fetch water.

Much of the trudge home was up hill and the task usually had to be carried out early in the morning.

Father Mansuetus managed to complete his primary and high school education whereas many of his peers did not.

After further study, including at the Widya Sasana College of Philosophy and Theology in East Java, he was ordained as a priest in Germany in 2004.

The priest, who later became a missionary in Italy, was unhappy that members of his family and other villagers still had to cope with the acute water shortage.

It was tough for students to fetch water for daily needs and then walk another three kilometres to reach the local primary school, so he decided to help.

But after visiting Sambikoe in 2008 with some Italian friends, they decided to give priority to the run-down village, and inadequate local school facilities, before dealing with the lack of water.

They planned and financed the construction of a dormitory for girls studying at Waemokel Catholic School, which was completed in 2012.

Now, even girls from public schools are accommodated at the dorm.

In 2015, with assistance from donors including the administration of the northern Italian city of Bolzano, a clean water project began.

Under the direction of an engineer, villagers worked side-by-side to install pipes and pumps as well as to build a reservoir.

It was nearly a year before water was piped from a spring, four kilometers away from the village, across steep and rocky terrain.

In Sambikoe, surrounded by savannah and arid hills, villagers variously cultivate rice, corn and tubers — as well as cashew, mahogany and teak trees — and some men seek outside laboring work.

Village leader Rafael Rae said that since Sambikoe village was founded nearly 60 years ago, children as well as adults have suffered from various skin diseases as a result of the limited access to clean water.

But Father Mansuetus ended the long struggle.

"Now our girls, the mothers and school children do not need to go to the river any more to fetch water or bath," Rae said.

"Everything is done at home."

Ludwig Nossing, a representative of the Italian donors, made a plea last August at the inauguration of the project.

"It is your duty to ensure that the facilities are properly maintained," he said, adding that people should protect the environment by not removing local tree-cover.

"Don't cut the trees to ensure that the water will not run dry, so that your children and grandchildren can enjoy what you have now." 

Benyamin Sambi, a teacher in the village, said the children now look healthier and school attendance has improved.

And the availability of water had enabled people to plant more vegetables.

During the dry season, people from nearby villages fetch water from Sambikoe.

Father Mansuetus hopes that the new water supply will bring a better life for everyone, Sambi said.

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