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Until earlier this year, I found it easy to take water quality for granted. But after reconnecting with Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, at the recent Inc. 5000 Conference, that all changed.
Scott's organization has been the Inc. 5000 Conference featured charity for the past two years.
After talking to Scott, it's easy to see why Inc. magazine is such a believer in the organization. They focus on doing one thing and doing it exceptionally well ... use 100 percent of the donations they receive to help communities in developing nations obtain clean, safe drinking water.
It doesn't sound like a big deal to people living in industrialized countries such as yours and mine. However, in developing nations, the job of finding/bringing home daily water falls mainly on the women and children who often have to make the up to eight hour round trip to and from the water source, hauling jerry cans of unsafe, polluted water ... every day.
No Choice - In many developing countries, bogs and swamps are the only source of water. People spend hours lugging heavy containers of the water to their villages, filter it as best they can and use it to cook and drink; but the tainted water is the source of maladies of all types and early death. Clean drinking water is often literally under their feet, but they don't know how to find it or how to bring it up from the ground.
I was amazed to learn 800 million people on the planet-one in every nine individuals-don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. Unsafe water and the lack of basic sanitation cause 80 percent of all sickness on the planet and lead to 2.2 million deaths every year.
This daily struggle exists in spite of the fact that in many instances, a clean water solution is almost literally underfoot.
The only challenge is the financial and professional assistance these people need to find and develop clean water solutions and put an end to the diseases and death that result from having to drink murky, polluted ground water.
Scott noted that unlike developing the grand water purification solutions we often hear about, he came up with the simple idea of helping communities develop permanent, sustainable water solutions such as freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters and teaching them how to maintain them.
He came up with idea while working with Mercy Ships that brought much needed medical care to some of the poorest countries on the globe.
On one trip, he went with an engineer to visit one of the outlying villages. The engineer and Scott worked with the people to dig and reinforce the walls of a well and install a crude pumping system.
In just a few days, the villagers were able to pump their fresh water locally, rather than have the women and children walk for hours carrying the heavy jerry cans to and from questionable water sources every day.
Changing Lives - With donations from businesses and individuals, charity: water has been able to complete more than 6,000 water projects. When the project is completed and liquid is pumped from deep underground, it is often the first time people in the community have ever tasted clean, fresh water.
The most frustrating aspect of that situation? There was clean water right under these people's feet! They simply didn't have knowledge and resources to get it.
A Permanent Solution, Not a One-Day Fix
Scott emphasized that the solutions charity: water helps people develop aren't just temporary fixes to the problem. They aren't high technology solutions that someone installs, feels good about and leaves, hoping by some miracle the local people will understand how to maintain them.
Instead, something as basic as a sustainable water well is a realistic, long-term solution that will provide easy access to life-changing, clean water and will positively affect generations to come.
The charity: water projects also give the villagers the freedom to focus on more productive activities such as growing food, educating the young (and old), enjoying good health and pursuing creative activities.
While the solutions are remarkably practical and low-tech, charity: water uses today's GPS and satellite technologies to ensure that donors know specifically where their money is going. Last year, OWC donated $25,000 to charity: water; and today, we have satellite photos and GPS coordinates of the communities that now have clean, safe well water.
Specific Projects - Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, felt it was important that donors had a close tie to the water project they made possible for people in developing countries. Using a combination of satellite imagery and GPS coordinates, donors know specifically where their water project is located and feel closer to the people who have been helped.
The wells are now part of the more than 6,000 water projects charity: water has completed in 20 countries to help 2.5 million people gain access to clean water, hygiene education and improved sanitation.
Making a Difference
I've always felt that while charity is sometimes easy, sometimes inconvenient, it is always necessary. Most important is that the impact is real, the difference made is not just temporary and the donations are given to those that need it, as opposed to the organization's overhead. 100 percent of the funds raised for charity: water go to the provisioning of clean water.
I've become a strong believer in both charity: water's purpose and how it operates. In addition, I can easily understand the potential the organization has to make a difference in the lives of people I don't know but feel a responsibility for.
It made me want to do something different to mark the company's 25th year beyond simply observing how much we've grown; something that would truly make a difference. I recalled what Scott did for his birthday after founding charity: water six years ago. To generate donations that would make a difference, he donated his birthday. Instead of a birthday party and gifts, friends donated to charity: water to give the gift of clean water.
To mark our 25th year of serving the Apple and technology communities, OWC is following Scott's approach and inviting visitors to OWC's web site to make a difference with a donation to charity: water. Our goal is to raise at least $125,000 to dig as many wells as possible and bring people one of the basics of life ... clean, safe drinking water.
You Can Help
On this year's National Giving Tuesday, we hope you will help us reach our goal because OWC is matching dollar for dollar every donation your friends, neighbors and you make via OWC's portal: http://mycharitywater.org/p/campaign/?campaign_id=31543.
We launched the campaign by donating $1 for each of our existing 5,000+ Twitter followers, and increased that amount to $5 for every new Twitter follower from Black Friday thru Giving Tuesday. Starting Wednesday, we'll continue donating $1 for every new Twitter follower we gain until December 31, as well as every person who signs in for OWC's 25th Year Kickoff Celebration' Sweepstakes which concludes this Friday.
On average, every $20 raised brings clean, safe drinking water to one person. So truly, every effort can make a difference and eliminate the need for people to use water from swamps, bogs and other questionable water sources.
Helping Hands - We tend to take it for granted that we can cup our hands under the faucet and drink clean, fresh water. But in many parts of the world, people must drink dark, murky liquids that contain parasites, germs and water-borne diseases because they don't have a better, safer alternative.
In addition to joining OWC in its "Birthday Year" donation, visit http://www.charitywater.org/ and spend some time learning more about charity: water, the projects they have completed and others they have planned.
Giving Tuesday is a great way for all of us to improve someone's life...forever!
Founder/CEO of OWC
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