In many third world countries, the women and children spend several hours each day trekking from their isolated villages to the nearest water source, often several miles away. They collect the bacteria-infested water from swampy, stagnant ponds, and then lug home 40-pound jugs. When they arrive back in their village, they will filter the filthy water through a piece of fabric to remove larger bit of debris. Then comes the decision of how to use the water – drinking, cooking, bathing, or cleaning?
The consequences of distant and dirty water are expansive – heath, education, families, and businesses suffer. The consequences of the water crisis are also preventable.
When Scott Harrison first visited Libera in 2004 as a volunteer photo-journalist, he saw countless individuals who had been mutilated by disease and disabled by their harsh living conditions. After several years of living the high life and partying for a living, the reality shock brought the grown man to tears. After one year abroad, Scott vowed to give up all of his vices and his old style of living. He swore that, despite his debt, he would start a charity to help the people he'd met in West Africa.
Though he explored many options, water seemed the obvious choice. Everyone should have easy access to easy water, and there's already a solution; it's simply a matter of funding. Scott did his research and quickly realized that the other water charities were making little headway. Many people don't trust charities because they can't see where their money is going, and they may not understand exactly what the charity is working towards.
In 2006, Scott Harrison founded charity: water. In doing so, he not only started a charity; he reinvented charity.
- charity: water follows the 100% model. Every cent donated goes towards projects that provide clean water and the organization has full transparency. All overhead costs are covered by private donors.
- charity: water provide proof that your contribution has funded a completed project. Within about 18 months of your donation, of any denomination, you'll receive a notification containing a picture of the well or filtration project, as well as the GPS coordinates.
- charity: water has developed itself as a brand. The organization is about aspiration and problem solving, not just fundraising. They rely heavily on social media (Facebook and Twitter), word-of-mouth, relevant and emotionally affective advertising, and fundraising events.
The smallest investment can have a monumental impact:
- Every $1 invested in the water project leads to $12 profit for the village receiving access to clean water.
- $20 provides one person with clean water for 20 years.
- $5,000 will build a well and sustain a village indefinitely.
I've been aware of charity: water for about three years now and have donated a few times, but building that personal connection with the founder, understanding the ins and outs of the cause, and then learning about the recipients of the water really bolstered my support. These aren't foreign sub-humans; these are real people just like you and I, with families, dreams, and amazingly, hope .
In a few short months, I'll be pledging my 24th birthday to charity: water. Rather than asking for money, books, or a night out with friends, I'll be requesting that my friends and family help me raise $5,000 to build a well and water a village, and truly enhance the lives of others in need. I can only imagine the immense satisfaction that will bring me, those who give, and those who receive. For once in my life, I'm actually kind of looking forward to my birthday. (Click here to learn about giving up your next birthday to bring clean water to people in need.)
charity: water is an incredible organization with an enthralling back-story and brilliant, ever-evolving plan of action. Scott Harrison's goal is for everyone on Earth to have access to clean water. I believe that's entirely possible. Water changes everything. We all have the power to make a different, and in this case, to actually see the impact.