Giving Up Your Birthday for charity: water

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By Kelsey Miller > Sophomore > Journalism > University of Maryland

If you were asked to give up your birthday, would you agree to sacrifice your one special day (and all those gifts)?



Thousands all over the world are asking not for presents, but for donations; donations so impactful that just $20 can give someone access to clean drinking water in a developing country for up to 20 years.
Worldwide, one in eight people don’t have clean water. In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water, which is generally dirty and rampant with disease-causing bacteria.
On Sept. 7, 2006, charity: water, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing clean and safe water to people in developing nations, was created by Scott Harrison. On his 31st birthday, Harrison threw a party, and instead of asking his friends and family for gifts, he asked for donations to support clean water and ultimately raised more than $15,000 for a refugee camp in Uganda. Thus, charity: water and its annual September Campaign were born.
Now, Harrison and the rest of the charity: water crew ask others to “give up” their birthdays and accept donations for various regions of the world without access to clean water. They operate under a 100 percent model, which means all donations go toward areas in need.
Nearly 3,000 clean water projects have been funded since the campaign’s start, including this year’s focus, the Central African Republic. As of mid-September, the campaign has raised more than $363,000 of its $1.7 mil- lion goal, designated to help the Bayaka people of Central Africa.
The annual “Live Drill” event, a broad- casting of the well-drilling process via satellite on location, appeared online at the charity: water website for the organization’s anniversary.
“Storytelling is important to show the impact contributors are making,” says Paull Young, Director of Digital Engagement for the organization. In addition to the “Live Drill” videos, using Google maps, fundraisers can see exactly where in the world their donations are going.
Students are getting involved with charity: water through fund- raising events like the September Campaign and by starting their own drive. The organization also has an internship program. They look for interns in a range of departments, from accounting (the “financial hub” of the organization) to development, to water pro- grams (the most sought after within the organization) to operations. To apply, go to


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