Right now in the world, nearly one billion people live without direct access to clean water.
Living on less than a dollar a day, many are forced to walk great distances through treacherous terrains to bring back water that is sometimes infested with deadly water-borne pathogens. Most of these populations are centered in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, with booming populations putting another strain on already limited supplies.
But for the hearts and minds behindthe nonprofit organization charity: water, such daunting prospects cannot begin to diminish the hope and belief that the worldwide water crisis is a solvable problem. For them, safe and clean water can provide new opportunities for millions of people.
Founded in 2006, charity: water started out as a simple fundraiser. After spending time as a volunteer relief worker in West Africa, founder Scott Harrison asked that, for his birthday, his friends should donate money instead of gifts to an effort to help fund well construction in a Ugandan refugee camp. Five years later, more than 2 million people have been helped through the campaign’s efforts in 19 countries and three continents.
By creating clean, centrally located wells, the impact of clean water can be seen on the lives of the people. Instead of spending hours per day marching back and forth for dirty water, many people (especially women) have been able to spend that time raising families and starting small businesses. Children now have the time in their day to go to school and get an education. And most importantly, much fewer infants and children are afflicted by debilitating and deadly water-borne illnesses.
What's revolutionary about charity: water's business model is how they raise their funds. While direct donations can be made, charity: water also gives every interested person the chance to start their own fundraisers. Whether it’s biking across America or starting a lemonade stand, everyone has the ability to reach out to support a larger cause, and one hundred percent of the money raised goes toward the cause of providing clean water. The most popular form of fundraising still follows Scott Harrison’s example. Instead of accepting gifts for their birthdays, fundraisers instead ask for donations towards charity: water’s campaigns.
During the month of September, charity: water has announced a special project in time for its fifth birthday. To speed up its efforts to create new wells in northern Ethiopia, the campaign is putting all funds raised this month toward purchasing a heavy duty well-drilling rig and additional support equipment. With this new rig, they can move exponentially faster to someday soon provide the entire Tigray region in Ethiopia with clean water. So if you or anyone you know has a September birthday, consider helping charity:water accomplish their very specific and achievable goal.
According to charity: water founder Scott Harrison's example, even the smallest sacrifices can help to add up through the power of human social networks. We have already seen the power of this in the community responses for the devastating Central Texas wildfires. Tragedies like these remind us that no matter the scope of the tragedy, we have the power to overcome. All it takes is innovation, elbow grease and the will to act.