The New York Times just published an op-ed piece featuring the non-profit organization, Charity: water (click here to read).
Charity: water was started by Scott Harrison, who from what I can tell is a Christian who underwent a spiritual transformation about five years ago, radically changing his lifestyle from an indulgent nightclub promoter and signed up with Mercy ships, a long standing Christian evangelistic & humanitarian aid ministry (they travel the world with ships staffed with Christian volunteers and do medical missions and the like), as a volunteer photographer. More recently, he’s turned his photography and (more importantly, in my estimation) his marketing & promotion talents to mobilizing people to give to help build clean water wells in various African nations. One of the strongest messages he’s pushing is this – if you do the math, giving $1 works out to providing clean water to one person in Africa for a whole year ($20 = 20 years of clean water). That clearly communicates that EVERY LITTLE BIT can make a huge difference in a person’s life.
Interesting side note: Charity: water has funded several water wells in Malawi already, with one specifically mentioned in Chileka, a village (or district?) about ~60km by road away from Blantyre. I’ve heard of Chileka before – maybe even one of the students I met on our missions trip this summer to Malawi (I was in Blantyre) might have mentioned it as his hown village 😛
Lack of clean water leads to many parasites and illnesses, and not insignificantly, huge amounts of lost time that reduce productivity – time that could have been spent studying for an education or farming to provide food for the household.
Anyways, the whole reason I’m blogging about this is to try and make these two points:
1. Individual persons in the developed world (i.e. you and I) are in a powerful position to make a difference for the impoverished and the needy.
2. People (i.e. you and I) usually won’t do something unless it’s made sufficiently easy/obvious for us. In other words, facilitation is key.
Charity: water is a good example that takes advantage of the facts that we are capable of making a difference (we have at least $1 we can spare) and that giving online is very convenient But it doesn’t stop there, but it uses beautiful photography, video, and frequent updates of they’re results to show people exactly what their $1 or more dollars is doing (or can do). That last step is crucial, because it makes it easy for us to see that what we’re giving is making a difference. Without all that convenient photo/video evidence at our fingertips, it would be impossibly hard to find out what impact my donations are really making.
I think I will call Point #2 the “lazyness principle”. I think we should plan our social policy (and also our Christian ministry) strategies according to it a lot more. Even if it seems like “we shouldn’t need to”, especially if we’re the ones trying to help them. Because, honestly, I think a lot can be gained by acknowledging the simple realities of how our universe works, instead of continuing to bemoan the fact that people (or situations) should be a certain way.
Even if you’re right that people “should” be willing to help provide clean water for others around the world – without all these fancy promotional photos & videos and easy online giving – that doesn’t change the fact that many of us won’t. Unless someone ends up providing that helpful little nudge we need.