charity:water Founder Scott Harrison on One Girl's Campaign to Fund Clean Water in Ethiopia
Photo courtesy of charity:water
charity:water founder Scott Harrison talks about his organization's new campaign, the impact that Issaquah girl Rachel Beckwith has had on his organization, and how we, as parents, can encourage Rachel’s spirit of giving in our own children.
Instead of asking for gifts on her ninth birthday in June 2011, Issaquah resident Rachel Beckwith asked for donations to help bring clean water to those who had none. Her goal was to raise $300 to build wells in Africa. She fell $80 short and pledged to try again when she turned 10. Five weeks later, Rachel died from injuries she sustained in a semi-truck accident on I-90 in Bellevue.
Her friends and family took up her cause and re-ignited her campaign. Her story went viral, inspiring donations from across the globe. Within months, they had far surpassed Rachel’s original goal and raised more than $1.2 million for charity:water, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring clean water to every person in the world.
This month is the five-year anniversary of Rachel’s death. To mark the occasion and honor her daughter’s memory, Rachel’s mother, Samantha Bouch, has launched a new charity:water campaign. Seattle’s Child asked charity:water founder Scott Harrison about the new campaign, the impact Rachel has had on his organization, and how we, as parents, can encourage Rachel’s spirit of giving in our own children.
Seattle's Child: What impact has Rachel Beckwith had on your organization?
Scott Harrison: Rachel’s impact has been enormous. Her original birthday campaign funded 143 water projects, helping to bring clean water to more than 37,770 people in Ethiopia. Nearly 32,000 donations have been made by people all around the world in her honor. More than 400 of those donors went on to start their own campaigns, raising an additional $2.4 million. Her story continues to inspire countless others to donate and to start their own campaigns every day.
How is Rachel's legacy extending to the new campaign?
Rachel’s mission was to make a difference for as many people as possible, and we’re so excited that five years later we can continue to celebrate her gift and honor her legacy by continuing to bring clean water to those who lack access to this most basic need. The ripple effect Rachel’s story has created has been truly amazing and I feel so honored to be a part of furthering her mission.
photo courtesy of charity:water
A new well in Ethiopia was made possible in part thanks to Rachel's spirit of giving. Samantha Bouch, Rachel's mother, is pictured above.
What advice do you have for parents who wish to foster Rachel’s spirit of giving and global awareness in their children?
As a parent myself, it's incredibly important that my family understands the importance of giving. Kids can be some of the most compassionate and empathetic people on the planet. Sometimes teaching them that there are kids just like them out there who are living without the things they need is enough to spark that sense of generosity. Try showing your children charity: water’s virtual reality film The Source—which follows a 13-year-old girl in Ethiopia named Selam, as her village gets clean water for the first time—to show them what life is like for millions of children across the globe without access to clean water. A birthday campaign is another easy way for a child to begin to understand how giving can be just as much fun as receiving presents.
How do birthdays, like Rachel’s, help charity:water?
Birthdays are very important to charity: water — in fact, it's how we got our start. Ten years ago I threw a party for my 31st birthday and asked my friends to donate $31 instead of bringing gifts, and used that money to help build our first wells in Uganda. This ultimately grew into birthday campaigns, as a fun and easy way to raise funds for clean water. Rachel’s story shows us that no matter how old you are turning or how much money you collect, every donation makes a difference. If you’d like your next birthday to help change the world, check out https://my.charitywater.org/birthdays/ and fill out a pledge form. If your birthday just passed, sign up and we’ll send you a reminder next year.
How else can children get involved in Rachel’s anniversary campaign?
It’s easy for kids to get involved with charity: water, and in fact, thousands already have. They've held bake sales, run races, given up their birthdays, and more – all to help us bring clean water to people in need. Check out more awesome kid stories here and invite your child to do what they love to make a difference. Kids and grownups can give to Rachel’s anniversary campaign by donating here.
Is there anything else you’d like share with our families?
Nearly one in 10 people—twice the population of the United States lack access to clean, safe water. Every day, about 1,400 children die from diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Gathering water is a time-consuming process that keeps kids out of school and prevents parents from working to provide for their families. Access to clean water is essential because it brings education, income and health—especially for women and kids.