Local Girl's 9th Birthday Wish Delivers Clean Water to 37,700 People
Rachel Beckwith of Issaquah had one wish for her ninth birthday in June 2011. She wanted to bring clean water to children in African villages.
Photo courtesy of charity:water
Rachel Beckwith of Issaquah had one wish for her ninth birthday in June 2011. She wanted to bring clean water to children in African villages. Instead of gifts, she asked her friends and family to donate money to charity:water, an organization working to bring safe drinking water to communities across the world.
Rachel raised $220, which was short of her $300 goal, but she pledged to work harder and raise more money for her 10th birthday. Sadly, Rachel would never get that chance.
One month later, she and her family were traveling on I-90 through Bellevue when a semi-truck jackknifed into a logging truck, spilling logs across the highway and causing a 13-vehicle pile-up. The semi also rear-ended Rachel’s family car. Her mother and sister were unhurt, but Rachel was critically injured. She died in the hospital three days later.
A plaque commemorating Rachel's contributions in Ethiopia.
But her giving spirit lived on. Friends reopened her clean water campaign and Rachel’s story went viral, inspiring more than 30,000 people—including many children—from across the world to send donations. Within months, Rachel’s original birthday campaign raised more than $1.2 million for charity:water, enough to fund 143 projects and give 37,700 people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia access to clean, safe water.
Rachel is the largest individual fundraiser in charity:water’s history. Five years after her death, the organization still receives donations from people inspired by her.
“Her amazing story reminds us how one person, no matter his or her age, can profoundly improve the lives of others,” said Scott Harrison, charity:water’s founder.
Rachel’s legacy is about to get even bigger. Her mother, Samantha Bouch, is launching a new fundraising campaign on the five-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.
“Many of us have no idea what it's like to be thirsty. We have plenty of water to drink -- even the water in our toilets is clean,” she wrote on the new campaign website (link). “I can think of no better way to keep (Rachel’s) legacy alive than to continue raising money for a cause that inspired her so genuinely.”
All photos courtesy of charity:water.
To make a donation in Rachel’s memory, visit her new charity:water page.
To learn more about Rachel’s impact, and about the 37,700 people who received clean water thanks to her birthday wish, visit her original charity:water page.
To learn more about charity:water and how parents can encourage a spirit of giving in their children, as well as fostering an awareness of critical global issues, read our interview with charity:water founder Scott Harrison.