Utne Reader Visionaries share their latest projects, ideas, and visions for the future.
Scott Harrison is the founder and CEO of charity: water. Scott spent 10 years as a nightclub promoter in New York City before leaving to volunteer on a hospital ship off the coast of Liberia, Africa as a volunteer photojournalist. Returning home to New York City two years later, he founded the non-profit organization charity: water in 2006. Turning his full attention to the global water crisis and the one billion people without clean water to drink, he created public installations and innovative online fundraising platforms to spread international awareness of the issue. In five years, with the help of more than 250,000 donors worldwide, charity: water has raised over $60 million and funded 6,185 water projects in 19 developing nations. Those projects will provide over 2.5 million people with clean, safe drinking water. Scott was named an Utne Reader Visionary in 2009.
“charity: water began with a birthday party. On September 7, 2006, founder Scott Harrison asked friends to give $20 at the door and, in one foot-loose night, they funded life-saving water projects in Uganda,” begins a recent post in the charity: water log.
Since then, the nonprofit has drilled and dug wells, installed rainwater catchments, and supplied filtration systems in 17 countries. Donors—including children, celebrities, and churches—have financed projects from Cambodia to Honduras to Sierra Leone. This September, charity: water celebrates six successful years by raising the stakes. At this year’s “birthday party” in Manhattan, each $65 ticket purchased meant clean water for one more person living in Rwanda’s Rulindo District, the area of focus in the organization’s September Campaign. Harrison and his staff chose Rwanda because they saw clean water as a logical next step in a country that has come a long way on its own, setting an example for grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation following the genocide of 1994. "Although they could have spent decades stuck in tragedy, Rwandans have decided to invest in their future instead," says Viktoria Harrison in the video above.
To date, charity: water has raised nearly $700,000 toward the $1.7 million goal. Scott Harrison and his team are already in Rwanda (see video, below), working with contractors to plan the installation of large water systems. When finished, these systems will supply 26,000 people with clean water, improving health and freeing time for people who spend hours carrying water each day. For more videos of the project and a peek into how they get made, visit charity: water.