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Shira Lazar

Shira Lazar

Posted: August 16, 2010 12:10 PM

Today, charity: water begins its fourth Anniversary and its annual September campaign. If you haven't heard about this incredible nonprofit, charity: water is dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to the world's developing countries. Since 2006, they have raised over $20 million with the support of more than 100,000 donors. That money has funded an astounding 2,906 water projects in 17 different developing countries. charity: water has also been a leader in the online space, harnessing the power of social media to raise awareness and money for their projects.

So why is September such an important month? Founder Scott Harrison's birthday is September 7 and he began charity: water by starting small. He threw a benefit in New York City on his birthday, invited 700 people, and charged them all 20 dollars. That money built six wells in northern Uganda. How's that for a gift that keeps on giving!

A year later, Scott wanted to make it even bigger, but knew a benefit on one night just wasn't going to make the impact he wanted. So he moved the celebration online, and for his 32nd birthday asked everyone to donate 32 dollars. With over $90,000 in donations, he knew he was on to something special. The following year, 2007, Harrison found 92 other people in his network that were born in September and asked them to do the same. The campaign, which raised $150,000, energized people of all ages from a 7-year-old -- who raised a total of $22,000 from seven dollar individual donations -- to an 81-year-old who declared, "I'm turning 81 today and I'd like to make that possible for more people in Africa."

Since 2007, the September campaign has continued to grow, with over 900 people giving up their birthdays and raising $1 million for the charity benefiting 300 communities in northern Ethiopia. With that success, charity: water expanded the birthday giving campaign to the other 11 months and launched MyCharityWater.org. In just one year, that site has had 3,000 people pledge their birthdays and has raised three million dollars.

That's where we come back to the importance of today and celebrating September, the beginning of this great movement. "I don't need another tie or DVD for my birthday," Scott told me over Skype video. "There are over a billion people who don't even have clean drinking water."

This year, the focus is the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and, more specifically, the 85,000 Bayaka people. For the last 10 years, the logging industry in the area has displaced the Bayaka from their homes into other villages where one of their greatest needs is clean drinking water. charity: water was inspired to focus on the C.A.R. after visiting the region and hearing about the crisis of the Bayaka from water drilling expert Jim Hocking. Originally from Indiana, Hocking has lived in the C.A.R. region since 1954, where he owns and operates the only three drilling rigs in the country and has trained 100 Central Africans to be part of his work. charity: water's goal is to raise $1.7 million via online fund raising, which in just one month would accomplish Hocking's own lifelong mission of bringing clean drinking water to 100% of the Bayaka population.

That's only 1,700 people donating their September birthday. Could you be one of them?
You can go to charitywater.org/september to join the effort now. Also, be sure to mark Sept 7 on your calendars. Scott will be in the C.A.R and will broadcast the drilling of the first well funded by the September campaign.

"It's all about making the world smaller and this idea tangible. Right now, there are over 1,000 people in 17 countries working on charity: water projects. We're trying to show you what that looks like, who they are, the passion and sacrifice that goes into these projects."

Here's one of many powerful videos they will be releasing throughout the month that will hopefully inspire you to action. Make sure you share it with your friends:

charity: water 2010 September Campaign: Clean Water for the Bayaka from charity: water on Vimeo.