The United Methodist Jubilee Project (Advance #781350,) in Sneedville, Tennessee, has met the unique needs of Hancock County residents since 1991. The entire county has a population of about 6,500. Sneedville, its county seat and only incorporated town, accounts for 1,300 of county residents. The beautiful rural mountain scenes that tourists and hikers see when they visit rarely reveal the stories of the people who have lived in these mountains for generations.
Four-year-old Tammy* loved to go to Head Start classes. She and her twin brother lived with their grandmother. While she may have enjoyed the company and playtime with other children, what she really looked forward to was the opportunity to take a warm bath.
Her home on the mountain ridge had no indoor plumbing. Her grandmother drew water from a well outside and an outhouse was their only sanitation facility. It is cold and frosty up in the mountains of Northeastern Tennessee in the winter.
“The need for water here is amazing. People living up in the ‘hollers’ even today lack access to clean, fresh water,” confirmed Lisa Nichols Advance, (#982953), the director of the Jubilee Project. Nichols is a seasoned Church and Community Worker missionary.
The United Methodist Jubilee Water Project builds about three wells each year in Hancock County, where many residents don't have access to clean, safe water. The project, a mission of the Holston Conference, also helps with indoor plumbing.
“Sulfur is a problem in wells,” noted Nichols. “In the springs, bacteria is a problem.” Some people believe a mountain spring is the best water – the water they grew up drinking. They return to the spring for water to make baby formula or to fill gallon jugs for seniors who ask for spring water. While many who grew up drinking spring water may have acquired immunities to some of the contaminants in it, the same is not true for babies or people whose immune systems are compromised because of illness.
Other kinds of Jubilee water projects include catch systems for rainwater, storage, and filtration and septic systems for wastewater. Jubilee also focuses on food security in Hancock County. Unlike neighboring counties, the terrain makes it difficult to grow anything more than a small garden. Jubilee works with two food pantries in the county to make sure people have enough to eat.
The many ways that Jubilee approaches the pervasive poverty in the county is an indication of how these Appalachian mountain communities have been left behind, for perhaps 100 years, in basic necessities like food, water, sanitation and shelter. Just recently, the county received a substantial grant to work on water infrastructure, but once again, plans for access stopped at the foot of the mountains.
As Morris says of her friends on the mountain ridge, “It’s their turn to have water in their homes.”
*Her name has been changed.
excerpt from a story by Christie R. House, senior writer/editor, General Board of Global Ministries
The Advance is the accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church. The Advance invites contributors to designate support for projects related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Individuals, local churches, organizations, districts and annual conferences may donate to The Advance. One hundred percent of every gift to The Advance goes to the project selected by the giver. Gifts to missionaries support the entire missionary community.