Last year the Missionary Oblates in Bangladesh helped people affected by sever flooding in the capital city of Dhaka. The Oblate residence was under a foot of water – but thankfully the church building remained dry. when the Oblates opened the church to flood victims, hundred came to sleep, eat and wait for the water to subside.
Bangladesh is know for its flooding – most of the small country’s land forms a delta from the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. Still, Bangladesh suffers from a lack of clean drinking water. According to a study by the World Bank, over 20% of people of Bangladesh live in hard to reach areas that are the most vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding, riverbank erosion and siltation – conditions that make it nearly impossible to find clean drinking water.
These hard-to-reach areas are where the Oblates choose to live and work.
Father Subash Gomes, O.M.I. Bursar for the Bangladesh Delegation, recalls having to depend on water from the government for the seminary and delegation house in Mohammadpur. They simply did not have enough water to serve the needs of the 70 people who lived there. The dirty water they did receive need to be boiled for at least 30 minutes to be safe for consumption
Thankfully the Oblates received a generous donation last year to help build a deep-tube well at the seminary. Father Subash reports, “The deep-tube well is serving our needs. Now there is no water crisis. It was a great need in such a big place like our seminary. It will give us the permanent solution to the water crisis.”
The Oblates have also received funds to build more wells in their missions. “We have the Mugaipar mission in the Sylhet Diocese where we need a well,” explained Fr. Subash. “For the last many years this mission has used pond water for different purposes – even as drinking water. The mission has two hostels, fathers’ rectory and sisters’ convent. A deep-tube well will be dug here which will ensure pure water for about 200 people who are living in the mission compound.”
The Oblates are also planning a pond excavation in the Alikodom mission in the Chitogong Diocese. A deep-tube well cannot be built in this area due to the rocky ground. Father Subash said “The water we get here is full of either arsenic or iron which cannot be used for drinking, cooking or washing. Experts say that rainwater is the only solution.” The parish compound has an existing pond, so the Oblates will re-excavate it and install guide walls around the pond to keep it clean. “During the rainy season we can preserve rainwater that can be used for drinking, cooking and washing throughout the year,” said Fr. Sabash. “Moreover, in this pond we can cultivate fish which can provide nutritious food.”
About 500 people will benefit from the pond, including the 200 children who reside in the Oblate-run hostels. Fresh water will also allow the church to expand humanitarian projects such as dispensary facilities, awareness meetings, seminars, workshops and gatherings.