All due respect to wine, but water is truly the elixir of life. Yet 663 million people on this planet drink dirty water. It’s a number so large most of us would feel nearly paralyzed by its enormity. Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Every day, charity: water helps some of the 800 million people who lack access to clean water by implementing freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters.
In case you’re imagining a few dozen scrappy projects scattered here and there, take note: since its founding, New York’s charity: water has funded more than 28,000 water projects, impacting 8.2 million people. True, it’s a (literal) drop in the bucket compared to the 663 million who lack clean water, but it’s an awe-inspiring achievement nonetheless, and proof that the organization’s model is working.
One of those 8.2 million beneficiaries of charity: water’s efforts is Jean Bosco of Rwanda, who was 15 years old in 2008 when photographer Esther Havens met and photographed him in his home village of Murinja, later sharing his story on the nonprofit’s website. At the time, the shy and sturdy teen traveled to the same brown, murky pond four or five times a day to fill a 5-gallon Jerry Can his family relied on to supply their water.
Thanks to a partnership between charity: water, Living Water International and the Rwandan government, Murinja received a well that supplied fresh, parasite-free water to the community’s residents and for crucial services such as the treatment of the sick at a village clinic. When Havens returned to find Jean Bosco seven years after she first met him, she found him married with an infant daughter, living in his own home next-door to his parents and thriving.
Fortunately, charity: water CEO Scott Harrison doesn’t give up easily. After a decade working as a New York City nightclub promoter in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Harrison hit an emotional and spiritual wall – think, an existential hangover. He turned his life upside-down and spent the next two years in Africa, where he was confronted head-on by the problem of dirty water.
In addition to the problem, Harrison also witnessed the potential benefits of solving it: improved health, more vibrant local economies, the empowerment of women and greater access to education for children, many of whom were spending the majority of each day fetching water for their families.
Upon returning to NYC, he was determined to do something to eliminate the water crisis in his lifetime. In 2006, charity: water was born. The nonprofit uses 100% of all public donations to fund water projects – and offers photo documentation and GPS coordinates to prove where every dollar goes. By partnering with organizations with years of experience under their belts, charity: water is able to help build sustainable, community-owned water projects around the world. Cool luxury collaborations include teaming up with Pure Cycles, a team of fixed-gear and single-speed bike builders in Los Angeles.
For nearly 10 years, Burbank-based Pure Cycles has been designing, developing, and delivering some of the coolest bikes on the market. From race bikes to road bikes to simply rad bikes, Pure Cycles is always cooking up new places and ways to ride. Pure Cycles has created a custom line of bicycles, The Uniform and The Yankee, and for each bike sold, Pure Cycles donates $100 to charity: water. To date Pure Cycles also has donated more than $10,000 in support of charity: water and its awe-inspiring mission.
Today, the team of more than 30 at charity: water aims to operate in a manner that’s as transparent as the water it brings to struggling communities. Results include a coveted A-Rating with CharityWatch.org and an expanding community of generous world-changers – not to mention the clean water the organization brings to those who need it most. “For me, charity is practical,” Scott Harrison says. “It’s sometimes easy, more often inconvenient, but always necessary. It’s the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. Charity is singular and achievable.”
Produced By Corry Cook
Sources and Photos: charity. water; Pure Cycles