We believe in a world where every single person has clean and safe water. (Scott Harrison)
Clean water is one of our family’s passions. Loving others with no strings attached is another. I’m shouting out today to an organization that combines both and changes the world one “cup of cold water” at a time!
Rachel’s college essay captures the heart and passion of Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water! This organization changed our lives and hearts. I pray their story will change yours.
One individual who has influenced me profoundly since I was a young girl is Scott Harrison. He first came to speak at my church when I was eight years old. He told the congregation his story, shared his passion in its entirety, and truly won my heart.
Harrison’s story is not what one would expect of someone who is now devoted to serving those less fortunate. Harrison grew up in a Christian home and went to a Christian school until he convinced his parents to let him go to public school. While attending public school, Harrison joined a band and began straying from the Christian faith. At the age of eighteen, he moved to New York City with his band and played gigs at various clubs until his band broke up. Harrison then began working to promote the same nightclubs where he played. He spent the next 10 years flourishing in this business and used his money to excessively “party.” He used alcohol and drugs to numb the boredom of his life, while constantly searching for the next big thing, eventually becoming morally and spiritually bankrupt.
At that time, his father gave him a book called, “The Pursuit of God,” by A.W Tozer. He had a crisis in his conscience that sent him on a path to rediscover his faith and reflect on his lifestyle. He posed the question to himself, “What would the exact opposite of my life be?” (charitywater.org) Shortly thereafter, Harrison went from making lots of money promoting clubs and alcohol, to serving with Mercy Ships as their volunteer photojournalist. This organization is a fleet of floating hospitals that provide medical care to those who don’t have this crucial need. During this time, he met another volunteer on the ship who also had a passion to dig wells in his spare time for communities who had the worst water resources. Harrison began to ask questions about the link between dirty water and the very diseases the ship was providing treatment for. He discovered that 80% of these diseases were caused by dirty water. He decided to devote his life to removing what he deemed the biggest obstacle facing the poor: access to clean drinking water.
Harrison’s vision became one of bringing clean drinking water to the 663 million people who walked miles every day to fetch dirty water for themselves and their families. However, he realized there would be obstacles, one being that people have hesitations when donating to charity, primarily because they don’t know how much of it is going directly to the work and and how much is funding the overhead of the organization. To ensure people their money was being used for their designated purpose, Harrison decided that 100% of the money that was donated to the charity would be given to funding clean water service projects. He personally would have the challenge of raising the money for the administrative side of the organization. He even took it one step further and told the donors that he would track each dollar using GPS so they could see exactly where and how their money was being used. On his 31st birthday, in September of 2006, Harrison decided to use his skills and connections to throw a huge birthday party for himself in New York City and charged $20.00 to all 700 of the people he invited. He shared his passion that evening, built three wells with the money and sent the pictures of those wells to each person who came. Less than two years later, Harrison came to my church and shared his vision, inviting those who had September birthdays to follow his lead and use their own birthdays as a way to raise money for charity:water.
As a soon-to-be nine year-old girl with an upcoming September birthday, I caught Harrison’s vision for a world where everyone has clean drinking water. I was so excited and decided that I would have a birthday party and instead of asking for gifts, I would ask for a donation for charity:water. I am sure that the money I received was not nearly enough for a well, but my heart was changed.
The mission of charity:water is something that effected my whole family. We have gone into the charity:water headquarters, been to their fund-raising Christmas galas, run in 5Ks to raise money and awareness, and currently, we have three pictures sitting on our counter of completed wells in my mom’s birth country of Ethiopia. Last Christmas, my siblings and I pooled our resources and donated our own well. I will be excited when it’s the picture of our well on the counter along with the others. I am so glad that Scott Harrison came and shared this need with our church, and that I have had a part in meeting it. He not only won over my head, but my heart.
Scott Harrison is changing the world one well at a time, and in turn, one heart at a time.
Update (back to Esther): our family has another well in the works for 2017 in Tigray, Ethiopia. 25 years ago, more than 3.2 billion people had no access to clean water. That number is now 663 million. One well may not seem like very much, but if each of us does our part, the number could one day be zero.