One billion people on the planet don’t have clean drinking water. That’s one in six people. Charity: Water is a non-profit organization started by Scott Harrison that brings safe drinking water to people in developing nations, and 100% of all public donations directly fund these projects. How can you not be in love with this organization?? Love and Water talked to the head of communications and media and Scott’s executive assistant, Nicky Yates, about the incredible power behind this AMAZING organization.
Love and Water- Can you talk a little about Scott’s inspiration to start this incredible organization?
Nicky Yates- He started it in 2006. Prior to that he had done 10 years of event and party promotions here in Manhattan. Kind of living the high life- Budweiser used to pay him to drink their beer- very indulgent. He woke up one day and had a feeling there was something more, which lead him to return to his childhood roots of faith. He spent two years traveling on a humanitarian medical ship called Mercy Ships. While traveling with them his eyes were opened to so many things other countries are lacking by way of medical care. And the one thing that he kept seeing were women coming onto the ship with problems that were easily treatable in the United States from water. So he came back to the U.S. and did the one thing he knew how to do best- throw a party. And he asked all of his friends to donate money so he could build a project for these people. He raised around $15,000.00 in that one night, went to Uganda and fielded six projects there to provide safer drinking water. And Charity: Water was born from there.
L&W- Can you explain how the projects are built in order to bring clean drinking water to places that don’t have it?
NY- We first find groups who are doing exemplary work in the field, and we help them get the project built from start to finish, so nothing gets left out. Every project involves getting local communities to take part in the training process so they know how to update and maintain it. They also receive regular routine checks so that they’re evaluated once a year, and they get hygiene updates as well. So every project has a sanitation project in place and hygiene training.
L&W- What is the current project that you’re working on?
NY- Right now we are in 16 countries and we have over 14 projects going on.
L&W- That’s phenomenal.
NY- It’s really great. We’ve really been able to grow over the past four years.
L&W- What is the most moving experience you’ve had so far?
NY- Well, I’ll tell you one from here and one from out in the field. Last year we did an exhibition in a gallery space in Houston. And we use these 4’x6′ images to really highlight what we do and what life is like for the people we are helping. We also use a lot of video. For this one we focused on a health clinic in Kenya. So many people were getting sick from drinking from the local river, and we had many of the people we had helped on the video. And this one woman came in from Baylor Hospital in Texas and it really broke her heart, and she starting weeping in the gallery because she knew how important this was. Watching it touch her in that way just touched me so much; watching someone really get it in such a deep and compassionate way. The second one was when we were in Honduras, and we took a canoe down the river for about eight hours to this little village called Rioplatano at the edge of the country. There was this five year old girl who we started talking to who lived with her grandmother. We found out that there was an open pit that her grandmother had dug filled with muddy water, and there was all this sewage all around because there was no place for it all to go. And as I was picking up my pants and carefully trying not to step in it this little girl was walking right through it with bare feet. And it broke my heart, the level of poverty and need in that area.
L&W- I don’t know that enough people realize that this kind of situation exists. We take our drinking water for granted because we are so fortunate to have it at our disposal.
NY- It’s true.
L&W- What are the reactions of the people in these areas when you educate them about how to practice better hygiene and drink better water?
NY- Pure joy. We have video on our site from Haiti where there’s just a ton of celebration there. And in Ethipia as well. A large amount of gratitude. They know what it is, they know they’re finally getting clean drinking water and it’s a gift.
L&W- Have you been back to visit some of the first projects you built?
NY- Yes, Becky Straw recently returned from Uganda to see our first six projects. She did a story for Good Magazine that came out about a month ago, and we have more of that on our website.
L&W- That’s fantastic. You know, the tagline for Love and Water is “every drop counts,” because a lot of a little adds up to a lot really fast. Can you talk about how you feel about that in relation to Charity: Water?
NY- Well most of our donations are small donations. We have numerous campaigns, one being a scrapbooking campaign on My Charity Water where the donation is something like $15.00, and they’ve raised $7,500.00. That’s enough for one water project, and they’re halfway toward another one. Since we give 100% to the field, we see clearly how every little bit matters. Anyone can create a page on My Charity Water, and start raising money, and it’s incredible what a little can add up to in a very short time.
L&W- Thank you so much for taking time talk today Nicky.
NY- It was my pleasure. Thank you.