Here’s a quick video of the most nerve-wracking moment of my life to date – sharing charity: water’s commitment to raise $100 million for clean water by 2015 alongside Katie Couric at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park.
The Global Citizen Festival was an amazing event led by the incredibly impressive Aussie Hugh Evans, and featured some of the world’s top bands alongside the most impactful causes, in front of an audience of 70,000 passionate world changers and the world’s largest ever live stream audience!
Speaking to a crowd of 50,000 in the middle of the world’s greatest city, on a stage shared with the Foo Fighters & Neil Young, isn’t something I’ll forget quickly — even if it was only a sentence!
Beth Kanter tweeted about ‘giving up’ September birthdays for clean water. I remember clicking through to the borninseptember.org website, watching a great video, and setting up a fundraising page to help build a well for a village in Ethiopia.
To my surprise, lots of people gave! A popular new blogger by the name of Pete Cashmore started fundraising for his September 18th birthday too, and we raised enough to fund ‘the well that Twitter built‘.
charity: water became my favorite charity. Two years later I started working there. Two and a half years further on, and I’m giving up yet another September birthday for clean water — and I’d love your donation.
The September Campaign was how I first heard of charity: water. Back in 2008 Beth Kanter sent a tweet about ‘giving up’ your September birthday for clean water. Being a September baby, I clicked through to the charity: water site, started a campaign… and the rest is history.
I always get a little homesick in the cold of the US Winter. Perhaps that what made a few notes from the newly annoited Australian of the Year, Charles Teo, strike me so:
So on a very simplistic level, what is it about Australia that makes it the greatest place on earth to live? Those of you who have lived overseas for any length of time will recall that it is very easy to reflect on your homeland with rose-coloured glasses. When in the US, I would recall Australia’s magnificent beaches and national parks and sunny summer days with flawless blue skies. I would reminisce on the irreverent humour of Doug Mulray, the natural beauty of Australian girls, the fresh and bountiful seafood, my friends from childhood and university days with whom I could be at total ease and the relaxed quintessential Australian way of life. I conveniently forgot about the Sydney traffic, the tall-poppy-syndrome, the flies in summer, the geographical isolation and the hidden and sometimes overt racism.
My view of an Aussie was someone who was hard working, unaffected, genuine, affable, relaxed, egalitarian, irreverent and charitable.
Spending nine years in the USA was an enlightening experience. I felt Australia was such a great place to live, in no small part as a result of its isolation, not despite it. We appeared to be immune from world wars, border conflicts and dwindling natural resources. Why would you ruin this blissful isolation by allowing “queue jumpers”, potential criminals, into our Utopia?
My time in the USA made me reflect on how a country that was not that much older or bigger than ours had achieved such a standing on the world stage. In general, Americans were not more intelligent, diligent or talented than Australians. They have natural resources, so do we. Their pioneers did it tough, so did ours. They had a national pride, so do we. Speak to most Americans and they will be the first to concede the dependence of their economy on the hard-working and fiercely loyal Mexicans. Speak to almost any taxi driver anywhere in the 50 states and you will be inspired by a story of tragedy and conflict followed by hope and opportunity and concluded by a statement of national pride…in America NOT their country of birth. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but, having lived in the USA for 10 years, I would be hopeful that our country would benefit from immigration of peoples from countries of conflict, or those subjected to political persecution, who are simply seeking refuge from violence and a better life for their children. I believe Australia has a moral and social obligation to demonstrate a higher level of kindness to and acceptance of refugees. I don’t know how this may be achieved but I certainly know that both sides of the political fence are floundering. I would humbly suggest that a bi-partisan approach would be one step closer to a solution and we need it now!
Like many of us, I spend most of my waking hours touching an Apple product. First thing in the morning I fire up my iPhone to check overnight notifactions. For my full workday I bang on my MacBook Pro. When I get home I’m liable to unwind with some Fifa 12 on my iPad. Apple products and electronics surround my life, but I rarely stop to think about where they come from.
Like Mr Daisey the narrator, I always assumed a high tech factory used robots to construct my products with some human oversight. I didn’t think about an army of workers assembling my products painstakingly by hand while they barely made a living.
Thought provoking. Especially the analysis afterwards – are sweatshops like this a fact of life in developing countries that lead to growth despite our western sensibilities? Or do we as consumers, and more importantly Apple, Dell and their ilk who make massive profits from the labor, have a responsibility here?
As many of us do I’m reflecting on 2011 as the last few hours of the year wind down. And the strongest feeling I have is one of gratitude to all of you who’ve helped me personally and professionally through the year.
The greatest thing about working for a non-profit is seeing how people come out to help. Many of you have donated money, time and your brains to helping charity: water along this year. I appreciate it greatly.
Here’s a quick video we made to say thanks that I think you’ll enjoy:
Finally, I wanted to share the opening lines of the latest book I’m reading, Street Sweeper by Aussie Elliot Perlman, they seem particularly apt for reflecting on the last day of the year:
Memory is a wilful dog. It won’t be summoned or dismissed but it cannot survive without you. It can sustain you or feed on you. It visits when it is hungry, not when you are. It has a schedule all its own that you never know. It can capture you, corner you or liberate you. It can leave you howling and it can make you smile.
Like some other nonprofits, charity: water, a New York-based organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to people in developing nations, uses traditional and nontraditional fund-raising methods for separate purposes. Big gifts from private and corporate donors fund the charity’s operations, from staff salaries to ink for the printers. That allows 100% of donations from alternative channels, such as social media and the organization’s various websites, to directly fund water projects—an assurance meant to appeal to potential small donors concerned about where their money will go.
Seventy percent of donations to charity:water come from digital channels, mainly from individuals donating on its main website, by pressing the “donate” button, or going to mycharitywater.org, where anyone can set up a fund-raising campaign and ask friends to donate.
Mycharitywater.org has raised $11.5 million since August 2009. Individual fund-raisers have done everything from running marathons to setting up lemonade stands. The average campaign has raised $1,000, says Paull Young, director of digital engagement at charity: water. “Justin Bieber had people donate for his birthday,” he says. “Little girls have friends donate $7 for their seventh birthday.”
charity: water is experimenting with a new site, waterforward.org, that also relies on people’s social connections to expand the charity’s reach, but in a different way. The site maintains what it calls a “book”—a compilation of photos of people who have had a $10 donation to the site made in their name by someone they know. Once a person is in the book, he or she can bring in any number of other people by making a $10 contribution for each of them. Those people can then do the same, and so on. In effect, every donor becomes a fund-raiser.
The site is designed to make donating fun and engaging, and to allow donors to see that their contribution goes beyond the amount they can give, since each donation can lead to so many more donations, says Michael Birch, a major fund-raiser and contributor to charity: water who has helped the organization build its websites.
The second was more amusing. For 4th of July this year I embarked on a Texas trip with a bunch of rugby mates. For the occasion, I was in search of a stars’n'stripes Speedo… a surprisingly difficult item to acquire.
I turned to Zaarly, an awesome iPhone app turning commerce on its head, and a few hours and $50 was delivered a US flag speedo by a very confused personal shopper.
That same confused personal shopper appeared in a WSJ video today talking about his experience with Zaarly… his most awkward moment (you guessed it), my speedo.
Rachel Beckwith’s story has touched me deeply. She was trying to raise $300 for charity: water her 9th birthday when she was tragically killed in a car crash. Strangers have since donated nearly $1 million in her name.
“In the midst of this grim summer, my faith in humanity has been restored by the saga of Rachel Beckwith. She could teach my generation a great deal about maturity and unselfishness — even though she’s just 9 years old, or was when she died on July 23 … Yet this is a story not just of one girl, but of a generation of young people working creatively to make this a better world.”
But after visiting the village of Moale, deep in the jungle of Central African Republic, the water issue for me is always going to be these three beautiful girls:
It’ll be a mother like this:
Or a smile like this:
I took each of these photos while they gathered water at this dirty spring, miles from their village, as they’ve probably done for every day they can remember:
The injustice I feel that people are surviving on water I wouldn’t let my cattle drink from, is balanced by the hope, joy and happiness I found with everyone I met in Moale and several villages like it.
The same hope you’ll see in this video we filmed last week, on the day Moale finally got clean water after more than a decade of trying: