charity: water – Water Changes Everything

[Note: Updated August 2020 for freshness, accuracy, & clarity.]

I want to wish all visitors and loyal readers of WorkplacePsychology.Net a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Instead of doing a wrap-up of posts for 2011, I want to talk about water. Yes, water. As many loyal visitors to this blog already know, I am very passionate about charity and philanthropy (remember it’s not how much you give, but that you give).

Several days ago I stumbled upon a new charity program (charity: water) that I’m adding to my growing list of charities that I support. By the way, I highly recommend doing your own research on charities before donating because there are many that are ineffective and poorly run. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a good resource on what to do before giving to a charity.

charity: water is a non-profit organization that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. They raise awareness about the 1 billion people living without life’s most basic need, water. What I especially like is that because operating costs are covered separately by private donors, 100% of public donations (even the credit card fees from your donation) go directly to fund clean water projects in developing countries. Incredible!

Why water? Here are some eye-opening information from the charity: water website:

  • Clean water alone can reduce water-related deaths by 21%.
  • In Africa alone, people collectively spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water.
  • Kids in developing countries spend 3+ hours each day collecting water instead of going to school.
  • Women are twice as likely to walk for water than men. The hours spent walking and the resulting diseases from contaminated sources keep them from getting an education, earning a much-needed extra income and taking care of their families.
  • Without latrines or water for washing, many girls drop out of school when they hit puberty.

Of course, charity programs are most effective (in my opinion) when they are able to empower those affected to take charge and take care of their own needs. charity: water does this by working with their local partners to survey, analyze and test solutions in the field that can have real impact on the communities they serve. These partners carefully choose each water solution based on the area’s water availability, culture, economy and geography. When possible, these partners try to involve the community in the construction process. They implement sanitation solutions, provide hygiene training and form committees to handle project maintenance. charity: water projects are not “complete” until there is local ownership. charity: water wants “to make sure that the community is engaged and empowered to care for their own water project for years to come.”

For those interested, you can start a fundraising campaign to raise money for clean water projects. 100% of your money is sent to the field. Finally, when projects are complete, charity: water proves it by collecting data about your water campaign (including GPS coordinates and photos) and then sends that data back to you. Wow!

These are remarkable and compelling reasons why charity: water gets my support.

Growing up in Dallas, Texas and seeing so much wealth, materialism, self-indulgence, and self-entitlement, I decided that rather than giving more “stuff” to my niece and nephew (who already have too many things) for the holidays, I would to donate to charity: water on their behalf.

I did just that and printed out a nice, simple card (above) and gave it to them. I explained that it’s because I love them so much that’s why I’m not giving them more “stuff.” They told me they liked it but that lasted for a good 20 seconds, and they both returned to playing with their new tech gadgets and video games.

Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water, put this idea into practice when he threw a party for his 31st birthday. Rather than bringing gifts, he asked his friends to bring him $20 instead, and he used 100% of that money to fund water projects for a refugee camp in Northern Uganda.

Even though my nephew and niece do not understand or appreciate the significance of my donation to charity: water, my hope is that one day they’ll realize just how lucky they are to have plenty of clean water to drink, let alone all the material excesses they possess and the extravagant lifestyle to which they have become so accustomed to living.

In the U.S., every Christmas we hear radio stations play (ad nauseam) Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song about love and about not wanting a lot for Christmas because “all I want for Christmas is you.” The song makes me feel all warm and really puts me in the holiday mood.

But how can I (or we) feel warm and sing along to the lyrics when there are people in the world who don’t have enough food to eat or clean water to drink? During this holiday season, won’t you please consider a small gift to provide clean water? To donate to charity: water please visit their website.

As 2011 ends and 2012 begins, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for your loyal readership and wish each of you health and happiness in the new year.

Steve Nguyen