We are, all of us, surrounded by a cloud of new technologies, from GPS to Google Earth to streaming video. We also have known since Mathew Brady and the birth of photojournalism, the power of the photograph to move and inform.
Scott Harrison had a foot in each world, working in communications and then as a volunteer photojournalist. In 2006 he founded Charity: Water to promote "simple things that work. Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters. For about $20 a person (the price of a bottle of the Charity's water) , we know how to help millions of people." Now he has started a new campaign, to bring clean, safe water to the people of Ethiopia. It is an unusual idea- if your birthday is in September (as is his) ask for donations instead of presents. 33 bucks, because that his how old Scott is this year.
Selling bottles of water for twenty bucks to raise money sounds silly. Running a campaign to raise money focused on the founder's birth month and age sounds strangely narcissistic. Yet the campaigns work because they are simple ideas, powerfully expressed with some of the best video I have seen. (Watch the trailer for the September Birthday campaign and tell me you aren't impressed and moved.)
They know how to work a camera and make it work for them:
"When we started charity: water, the first thing we did was build a well, and take a picture of it. Then we told the story of the lives changed in that community to everyone back home. We've been doing that ever since. We want to show the immense need for clean water, and how that looks, really, not through statistics or numbers, but by looking at individual lives it affects. We've found this is our most powerful tool. Armed with a Nikon D200, we send photographers into the field to document the work being done, and to bring back proof once it's finished. Along with GPS coordinates and photos of every well, they usually bring back phenomenal stories of lives changed and communities revived."
Then they put it all up on Google Earth for everyone to see.
I remember watching the scratchy tv commercials for organizations like the Save the Children's fund, that tore at your heartstrings by showing stunted, sore and fly-covered children in horrible conditions. Charity: Water doesn't do that; they show you Jean Bosco smiling, they show results, in high res, in real time.
Charity: Water brings communication and technology to the non-profit realm in a manner that should be a model for everyone. After all, they can sell the idea of a campaign based on a guy's age and birthday, they can sell anything. Watch it again at ::September
More on Charity and Water on TreeHugger:
charity: water. Give Clean Drinking Water Valentine's Day
UPDATE: We just found a September Baby who would be grateful for donations in lieu of presents this year. Not that anyone was planning to give him presents. ::Graham Hill