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Around the world | Presbyterian World Mission

A mission of health and hope

Jim McGill is working with Malawian Presbyterians to bring clean drinking water to some 300,000 people

Men using a saw

A goal of saving lives: Jim McGill and the Water for All project are working to ensure that dirty water no longer kills people in villages across northern Malawi. Photo courtesy of Presbyterian World Mission.

Presbyterian mission worker Jim McGill and his Malawian Presbyterian colleagues are on a quest to deliver health and hope to people who lack clean drinking water.

McGill works alongside the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian’s Livingstonia Synod in its Water for All project. According to government estimates, about 300,000 people in northern Malawi, the region served by the synod, lack access to clean drinking water. That’s nearly one-quarter of the population.

In developing countries, more people die from water-related illnesses, including typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A and diarrheal diseases, than from AIDS. These diseases are preventable, McGill says, if people have clean drinking water.

The Water for All project works with communities to find the best way to develop safe and accessible water sources. Their options include wells, household water treatment and piped water.

In one village near Livingstonia, life is much better thanks to the water lines that the Water for All project helped the villagers install. Previously water came from a source more than a half mile away and was carried in pots on the heads of women. It was exhausting work, and the water was unsafe to drink.

Now access to clean water has improved the overall well-being of families. Children miss fewer days of school due to sickness. There is more time to tend crops that provide food and income, and personal hygiene is enhanced.

Around northern Malawi, thousands of communities drink from wells that would not be there if not for the work of McGill, the Synod of Livingstonia and other partners. The synod helps provide access to clean water in order to model Christ’s concern for all people, McGill says. However, the synod also stresses that the water sources belong to the communities they serve and are for people of all religious beliefs.

McGill, who holds a master’s degree in geological engineering, has worked in Africa for two decades. He serves alongside his wife, Jodi, a nurse educator.

The Malawian government says people have access to clean water if they live within 500 yards of a drinkable water source used by no more than 250 people. McGill and the Synod of Livingstonia have a much higher goal. They want 100 percent of the people to have water piped into their houses. “That might sound like pie in the sky,” McGill says, “but I think that’s a goal we should have.”

Pat Cole is a communications specialist for the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

World Mission

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