It’s easy to take safe water for granted in New York, where it flows freely from every tap. But imagine if the Gowanus Canal was your water source—and you had to carry its polluted water home on foot. Nearly a billion people have it that bad.
The World Health Organization calls unsafe water the leading cause of disease. Far more deadly than war, lack of safe drinking water and sanitation kills over 3 million people each year, nearly half of them children. The daily work of finding water—such as waiting hours in line at a well before carrying it miles home—usually falls to women and children. Which often means they don’t have time for education or employment.
The situation is so dire that the United Nations declared 2013 the “International Year of Water Cooperation” to unite efforts worldwide. One tiny-but-mighty downtown nonprofit has joined the fight, channeling social media and a swelling river of small donations.
Soho-based “charity: water” brings safe drinking water to communities in developing nations, but rather than rely on government grants, the organization, founded by a 30-year-old, calls for small donations from people like you. Its “100 percent model” pledges that not a penny goes to staff salaries or organizational expenses; instead, every donor dollar supports projects like wells, biosand filters and rainwater collection tanks.
To date, over a quarter-million donors have funded 8,175 projects in 20 countries, from drilling a well in Uganda ($7,000), to training and equipping well-repair specialists in India ($64,000), to protecting an uncontaminated source of drinking water in Ethiopia ($4,000).
The projects are simple but the impacts are quench much more than thirst. When people have clean water, disease declines. And instead of trudging to contaminated rivers, women can pursue employment and children can go to school.
Thankfully, New Yorkers don’t drink from the Gowanus. But our pocket change can bring about global change, especially when we understand the simple concept that “charity : water” has made both its mission and mantra: “Water changes everything.”
Photo credit: charity: water