PLYMOUTH — March 22 was World Water Day, but the mission behind the observance is a year-round focus for members of Conshohocken United Methodist Church and Conshohocken Plymouth Whitemarsh Rotary Club.

The two are partners in a volunteer effort to install a sustainable solar-powered water filtration system at Karama Education Center in Uganda. The installation – a project of Living Waters for the World – is scheduled for completion this fall, and CUMC and CPW Rotary hope their current “coffee that matters” fundraiser with Yield Coffee Roasters will bring in the $5,000 they need to complete the system.

Several varieties of whole bean or ground coffee – farmed in Brazil, Nicaragua, Colombia, Honduras and Ethiopia – are available for $20 per 12-ounce bag. Five-bag collections are available for $90. All coffee will be fresh roasted on April 7 and 8, shipped on April 9 and ready for pick-up at CUMC, 20 W. Sixth Ave., Conshohocken, April 10 (9 a.m. to noon) and April 11 (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Purchasers can opt to have five or more bags shipped to them for $20.

Living Waters for the World is an international ministry of the Presbyterian Church. CUMC members initially joined other volunteers for the installation of a sustainable water purification system and health education program at the Salvation Army in Holguin, Cuba, in 2018, and the local church’s involvement with LWW has been ongoing ever since.

In January 2020, CUMC volunteers traveled to Africa to assist The Chain Collaborative and Now Africa Initiative non-profits with a similar installation at KEC, located in southwestern Uganda near The Republic of Congo and Rwanda. But COVID-19 precautions and protocols stopped work at the school in its tracks.

CUMC mission spokesman Pat Patterson’s concern mirrors marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau’s warning that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one” and says resuming the project is urgent. She points to studies that some 80 of every 1,000 Ugandan children die from illnesses triggered by contaminated water – from polluted rivers and swamps – and poor sanitation before their fifth birthdays. The same data maintains the proposed filtration system could provide safe drinking water for a generation.

Patterson explains NAI founded KEC in 2016 with support from TCC. NAI is a collective of small-scale coffee farmers registered as a social enterprise committed to agricultural development and educational improvements in rural Uganda. U.S.-based TCC defines its mission as “(investing) in the capacity of Change Leaders in coffee-growing regions and (accompanying) them as they drive grassroots, sustainable development in their own communities, according to their own visions for change.”

According to Patterson, KEC’s young students come from “a rural community with no public utilities.”

“We’ll fill this gap by installing solar power,” she continues. “This new electricity source will have the dual impact of powering the water purification system and providing electricity (to KEC) for the first time, ensuring greater health and access to more educational opportunities for…350 school children and the greater community of 1,400.”

Patterson describes CUMC’s partnership with LWW as an extension of the Conshohocken church’s ongoing commitment to community service.

“As our pastor, Tim Duchesne, has said, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits of following God’s call, wherever it may lead,” she says. “During the pandemic, our congregation worked really hard to help provide local community aid. Our church developed or deepened relationships with other local groups, such as the CPW Rotary and Hope Community Church, to make things happen for as many as possible locally. Many in our church became really hands-on locally.

“I think the pandemic has really spurred people on to help others. I’m seeing many more people realizing how important both local and global missions are…and, specifically, the need for clean, safe water. We often take water, a precious resource, for granted. But when natural disasters or pandemics strike, access to clean water can be the difference between life and death. We all need to take an active role in protecting the world’s water supply so that we all have the resources we need to survive this latest crisis and thrive once it has passed.”

Patterson says all of the fundraising coffees are “fully traceable, relational-based and ethically sourced.” Additional information and details for ordering coffee are posted at www.conshyunited.com and www.cpwrotary.com and available via text to KaramaCoffee at 406-302-5086. All purchases will be processed through CPW Rotary’s Lafayette Foundation.

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