Water for Mozambique
A little more than 2 years ago, as many of you know, Kendahl and I were wrapping up our second and final year of teaching English at a primary school in Budapest, Hungary. It was a season full of joy and meaning, and I still miss that place and community dearly. As the spring months came along and we began to reflect on that experience and what was next, Kendahl and I considered ways we could serve and give charitably in our next season, and what impact we wanted to continue to make moving forward. Transitions have a way of making these kids of questions salient. Am I making a difference? If not, how can I? What do I want to do moving forward to use my gifts to serve? How can I get a nice tax break this year? (Just kidding.)
It was during this time I heard an interview with Scott Harrison, who founded a non-profit called charity:water. Harrison discussed his background as a club promoter in New York City, and how his life was changed when he worked for a medical non-profit organization in Liberia called Mercy Ships, which provides life-saving and altering surgeries. Harrison spoke of the devastation he felt in witnessing people get turned away due to lack of capacity. In addition, he saw people drinking from dark-yellow-colored swamps and heard of kids dying from diarrhea, and contrasted that with people he ran with back home: rich, well-dressed young people who frequented NYC night clubs, buying endless bottles of champagne that often went unused.
Harrison told heartbreaking stories of women who had to regularly walk miles to get clean water – getting attacked by hyenas or raped along the way. Many of these people, he said, had little or no opportunity to move to a new town to improve their circumstances.
Harrison talked about the charity:water birthday campaign option, in which people could “donate” their birthdays and ask for people to give to the charity rather than giving gifts. He told stories of many people, from famous people to young kids, who had done this. People often agreed to do something crazy in return for donations, like publicly watch Nicholas Cage movies for 24 hours straight, a campaign appropriately titled "Trapped in the Cage."
I was inspired by this idea (Not the Cage idea, just the birthday campaign in general) so I decided to join in the fun. You may know the rest of the story: 2016 was my golden birthday year (I turned 26). It was during my YouTube days, so I created a video announcing the idea, a video of my friends and family roasting me, and agreed to do a push-up for every dollar donated. We ended up raising $1,000, so I did 1,000 push-ups in a day and filmed it.
I'm proud of most of these videos, but man, some of them are cringey *laughing emoji*
One of the most important things about choosing to contribute to a charity, in my opinion, is having clarity and transparency from the organization and knowing your money went to good use. To be sure, there are many charities that are sketchy and downright crooked, and it’s often difficult to decide what to support. In researching charity:water, I learned that 100% of donations go directly to support clean water projects. To accomplish this, the organization has another fund, called “The Well,” that goes to supporting compensation and operational costs, and partners with angel investors who believe in the cause. Education happens on the ground and the project isn’t complete until the local people know how to operate the well effectively. Better yet, each well is tracked with GPS and its performance can be monitored remotely. This is a good, well-run organization.
And here's the bigger, more important "why," taken directly from the website:
663 million people drink dirty water... Clean water can improve health, boost local economies, empower women, and give kids more time in school.
Here’s the best part: we received word just recently about the results of this campaign. Our campaign was one of 17 that ended up funding a well in Mozambique, a well that will serve 346 people and will be completely sustainable. How cool. Thank you to all that donated, it really means a lot and has a real impact for real people!
Nowadays, it seems like every week I see another birthday campaign on Facebook for one charity or another. I love it. I once heard someone say that we are simply too connected globally to do nothing. Certainly donating to charity:water is only one of a million ways to give and make use of our resources, but we must continue to support those who are in need. My encouragement to all would be to consider ways to make an impact that fit your passions and skills; do the careful work of vetting the organizations you give to; and seek out organizations that are (1) transparent about how they use your dollars and (2) seek to empower the people they serve to sustainably use their own gifts and assets in order to promote human flourishing. We are all connected, and we are all capable of life-changing transformation. Your impact may be greater than you think!
Full details of the project can be found HERE!
Also, you can pre-order Scott Harrison’s book, “Thirst,” which will also give clean water to one person!