When I’m thirsty I grab my favorite cup, walk over to the kitchen sink, and fill myself a cool, refreshing cup of water from the tap.
I’ve been drinking tap water since a very young age; forget soda, my siblings and I were “forced” to drink water with breakfast, lunch, and dinner through our grade school years. I complained and complained, truly taking for granted the luxury of clean, drinking water. The fact is, this is a luxury that is not possible for nearly 800 million people on the planet. While I complained about having to drink one cup of water, there are men, women, and children who, if they even have access to water, may not have sanitary drinking water.
This may sound hard to believe but it’s true.
According to Living Water International, “Around the world, communities are trapped in debilitating poverty because the constantly suffer form water-related diseases and parasites, and/0r because they spend long stretches of their time carrying water over long distances.” Imagine having to walk miles for a couple of heavy gallons of water that you have to carry miles back to your village. Imagine your faucet on your sink spewing out brown, dirty, diseased running water, which is neither drinkable nor safe to handle. More than 1,600 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by unsafe water–that’s more than AIDS and malaria combined.
What is being done to solve this problem? Who will provide these people with clean water? The hero may be more familiar than you think: you!
Organizations such as World Vision Living Water International, Blood: Water Mission, and Charity: Water fight to provide hundreds of millions of people with clean and sanitary water in their communities around the globe. They do so based on donation from normal people like you and me.
Not only does World Vision support kids around the world, but World Vision also is one the largest providers of clean water in the developing world, reaching a new person with clean water every 30 seconds. Water continues to flow after the fine people at World Vision leave because communities have ownership of the water points and can maintain and repair them. Since 2011, 8,717 new or rehabilitated wells or water points have been established, roughly 2.35 million have gained access to clean water, and 224,051 sanitation facilities have been built- all achieved from support by World Vision donors across the world.
Another organization solving the water crisis around the world is Living Water International. Its mission statement reads, “Living Water International exists to demonstrate the love of God by helping communities acquire desperately needed clean water, and experience “living water”–the gospel of Jesus Christ– which alone satisfies the deepest thirst.
They hold training programs in shallow well drilling, pump repair, and hygiene education has equipped thousands of volunteers and professionals in the the basics of integrated water solutions since 1997.
Blood: Water Mission is an organization taking on a double duty task–partnering with African grassroots organizations to address the HIV/AIDS and water crisis. They do this by identifying Africa’s hidden heroes and coming alongside their vision for change. Through technical, financial and organizational support, they expand the reach and effectiveness of African civil society organizations and the communities they serve. Founded in 2004 by college student, Jena Lee Nardella, and multi-platinum album selling Christian band, Jars of Clay, Blood: Water Mission trains representatives in the field to teach people about healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene practices through more than 30 hours of classroom-style learning, including maps of disease pathways and steps for hand-washing.
All of these organizations are working fervently to provide the means to access sanitary water, but one such organization is doing things a little differently.
Charity: Water was founded almost eight years ago by a man named Scott Harrison. As a wealthy club promoter in the Big Apple, Scott felt increasingly empty and wanted a change. He spent a year with the volunteer service Mercy Ships, and saw the world in a whole new way. His next birthday, he asked all of this friends and family to donate $20 instead to building a well in Africa instead of giving him gifts. This became the start of Charity: Water.
Charity: Water contributes 100 percent of donations received directly to community water projects constructed by local water-providing organizations around the world. As of June 2013, Charity: Water has helped provide clean water to more than 3 million people through many water projects in 20 countries, partnering with organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision to name a few. Each donor to Charity: Water receives photos and other information about their funded project, and their plans for donor involvement are big.
“We make sure that every single penny donated by the public directly funds project costs, and none is taken out for our operational overhead,” states Stacie Flinner, a Faith Partnerships Manager at Charity: Water. These operational overhead costs are funded by The Well, a like-minded community of 94 philanthropists and business people. They donate to cover resource costs, the staff jobs, and trips into the field.
Charity: Water’s 100 percent model is incredibly effective in gaining the trust of donors like you and me because people know where the money is all going, they are inclined to not only give, but also continue to contribute more money towards building water wells. Charity: Water show proof of every water project they complete on Google maps, with photos and GPS coordinates of the well. This way each donor can see exactly where there money is going and how many village or community members are being served by the wells.
Even celebrities such as actor Nathan Fillion and professional skateboarder Tony Hawk have donated to Charity: Water, using their birthdays as donation platforms. Instead of receiving gifts on their birthdays, they created campaigns for their family, friends, and loved ones to donate the money the would possibly spend on gifts to funding the creation of wells in waterless areas around the world. For Tony Hawk’s 44th birthday, he asked friends and family to donate $44 dollars or more, stating, “My 44th birthday is coming up but I have everything I could ever wish for.” He raised over $20,000 dollars for Charity: Water.
Charity: Water is an organization that strives to keep a certain intimacy and connectedness with their donors. Little things such as calls and thank you notes on donor’s birthdays are some of the nice, friendly gestures that Charity: Water deliver to show appreciation. With the goal of raising more and more money for water projects, being able to continue these small gestures will prove to be a hard task as the number of donors grows.
When implementing new water well projects, Charity: Water’s main goal is to keep the water running.
They do so through training local well attendants, investing in local partners, and also funding new and innovative technology. But all organizations have their struggles, and Charity: Water has seen some minor setbacks in the past year According to Stacie Flinner, “In the Central African Republic we had to delay reporting to our supporters because of political unrest in the fall of last year. The projects were completed and the water was flowing, but our local partner drew back their presence because they deemed it an unsafe situation at the time.” Charity: Water was entirely supportive of the local partners actions, wanting to make sure that the area was completely safe before sending a monitoring and evaluating team to gather the GPS coordinates and other details of the new well.
“To our awareness, we don’t believe that any of the well projects have been vandalized,” says Stacie.
The future of Charity: Water is very optimistic, as every year more donors pledge money towards the achievement of water projects all over the world. Last year, Charity: Water had donors pledge over $26 millions dollars. “We have had a lot of success re-inventing charity, what we call disrupting the sector. This was actually our twin goal with ending the water crisis in our lifetime,” says Flinner. “We also have partnered with Google to pilot and implement remote sensors on all of our projects. So with gifts we are developing a technology that can be attached to our projects that can monitor the daily flow rate.” This is something revolutionary in the attempt to bring water to everyone in the world. “There’s a reason no one else is really doing this,” states Stacie, “because it’s really hard.”
Charity: Water is not an association looking for a temporary fix to the global water crisis. Charity: Water is willing to stand up to the hard-hitting questions of water sustainability, and are in this fight for the long haul. They have revolutionized charity and the means of providing water, and truly mean it when they state that their goal is to end the water crisis in our lifetime.
Saturday, March 22, 2014 is World Water Day. World Water Day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly as a day for the public to show support for critical water issues all over the world. As Saturday approaches think bout your part in the fight against the global water crisis. Think of the millions of people without clean water around the world when you wash your hands or drink water.
Whether is be donating money, starting a birthday campaign with Charity: Water, or just bringing awareness of the issue to friends and family, take a little time to appreciate the gift of clean water.