The plaque bearing John Hume’s name at the new well in rural Uganda.
By Ray O’Hanlon
To find Kiltealy on a map of Ireland requires a close look, a little extra scrutiny. Finding Uganda on a map of Africa is somewhat easier: Go to Kenya and take a left!
That said, Uganda is a small country compared to some of its continental neighbors. Kiltealy is just plain small.
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You find Kiltealy more easily if you can put your finger on the rather more prominent County Wexford and then the Blackstairs Mountains.
The village is set down in the foothills of the Blackstairs, at the junction of the R702 and R730 regional routes. Not exactly a crossroads of the world.
Still, Kiltealy has given the world some notable people. One of them is Irish tenor Anthony Kearns. Another is to be found in the history books, he being Fr. Mogue Kearns, a rebel priest who fought alongside Fr. John Murphy in the 1798 Rebellion, an event keenly remembered in this corner of Ireland.
Kiltealy has also been giving the world life. No small thing. And it has been doing so through the work of another favorite son, Nick Jordan.
Jordan doesn’t live in Kiltealy. He’s an emigrant, now living in California. But he doesn’t forget where he came from and he hasn’t forgotten an image from his boyhood that might well have spurred him into his primary mission in life, that being the bringing of clean water to people in rural Uganda who need it for a simple purpose: to live.
There’s an image in Nick Jordan’s mind’s eye that never goes away. He grew up on a Kiltealy farm. The family had no running water in the house so his mother would walk to a spring each and every day and return to the house carrying buckets of potable water.
Water, then, could be taken for granted in a way because at least it could be accessed. The labor involved did, however, instill in the young boy an appreciation for its absolute value.
Move on a number of years. Nick Jordan is in southern California, San Juan Capistrano in Orange County to be exact. Water is an issue here too though, unlike Uganda, there is an infrastructure that can get it to people.
For a number of year’s Nick Jordan’s California life was centered on selling real estate. He did well in the business and made money. Like so many others, he took a big hit in the 2008 crash.
“The crash wiped me out,” he says.
That would be in financial terms, but Nick Jordan still maintained a drive to succeed at something and that led to a trip to Uganda with the charitable organization “Fields of Life” and a mission to build a school.
“You have no idea until you go there,” says Jordan, mindful of the contrast between where he came from, first rainy Ireland, later arid, but infrastructure-serviced, California.
Jordan would dedicate the first school he was involved in building to his sister, Joan, who had died of brain cancer in 2000. The Joan Jordan Primary School is situated close to the source of the Nile and is the place where Nick set Wells of Life on its course a decade ago.
Schools, like homes, require water to function and even a casual glance around Uganda made it clear to Jordan that his mother’s daily mission with her buckets was a comparatively simple one when compared to that faced by all too many Ugandans who often cover miles on foot to fill a plastic can with H2O.
In the rural parts of what is in the main a fertile country, the lack of access to clean water is a major contributing factor to one shocking statistic. One in five Ugandan children are dead before they reach the age of five. It is estimated that a life is lost every 21 seconds in Uganda through illness contracted from ingesting contaminated water.
In the face of such a grim statistic, “Wells of Life” came into being. In addition to being its founder, Nick Jordan is also CEO.
Today, Wells of Life is a registered charity, a small to medium sized one according to Jordan’s assessment. It is registered in Ireland, California and Uganda.
In its first decade of work Wells of Life brought to life over 500 wells. each of them serving a thousand people. That’s over half a million people with access to clean water.
So how about a thousand wells and a million people? That is now the target.
Uganda isn’t the Sahara. It enjoys a high water table. With the required financial resources and technical expertise it is not overly difficult to drill a new well, or restore an old one to working order.
But sometimes you need more than just resources and expertise. You need inspiration.
And lately the work of Wells of Life has sought inspiration in the life of the late John Hume, a teacher, civil rights activist, a political leader devoted to positive societal change, a Nobel laureate. And a plain just good man.
And so, the John Hume Memorial Peace Well was recently drilled at a primary school in Uganda, St. Noa’s, where it will provide water to up to 1,000 children for approximately 25 years.
“Everybody knows John Hume,” says Nick Jordan.
Which is precisely the point.
This is a hard time the world over due to Covid-19. Aid organizations such as Wells of Life have to work ever harder to raise money.
“Getting money is not getting any easier. We’re fighting to stay alive,” says Jordan, who is married to Michelle and is a father of two teenage sons.
That would be fighting to stay alive in order to give life. John Hume would have understood the challenge. And he would not have been the kind of man to shirk from it.
Check out a random photo of Hume in his later years of life and you will almost certainly see him wearing a GOAL tie. Hume was a supporter of the Irish aid agency. His horizon stretched far beyond his beloved Derry, The Town He Loved (no pun intended) So Well.
The new well in Uganda, the one with John Hume’s name attached to it, will accomplish what other new wells have done all across rural Uganda – that is cut infant mortality in the first three months of life by fifty percent.
The Hume Well was completed on September 11. It took a few days after that for its cement apron to dry. The completion was a gift to humanity on a day forever remembered for humane acts in response to inhumane violence.
“The children are jubilant and will return to school receiving water for the first time that is clean and life-giving. If this isn’t a beautiful definition of peace I don’t know what is. This was a labor of love that I truly enjoyed,” said Nick Jordan.
“For the record, this was the fastest well we ever drilled.”
There will be more work ahead, more drilling, more trips to Uganda, more water, more life.
Some will plan, some will dig and drill. Anthony Kearns will sing out in support.
Kiltealy might be a small place, but from it profound change affecting the lives of many thousands has flowed.
And it all began with Nick Jordan’s mom and her buckets. More on Wells of Life at www.wellsoflife.org.