The Charity Dilemma

wellFor most of my conscious life I have considered myself a caring person.  In fact a pillar of my identity is the desire to help others.  In my adult existence, I have donated a considerable amount of clothes and items to those less fortunate.  I volunteered to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity in Nigeria.  Yet, I have always battled with the concept of giving money.  Many times I come across people begging in the street.  It is very difficult to determine whether a simple handout of money will help or not.  Is this money going to be used to feed and/or clothe or will it simply be used for destructive purposes.  The mental battle not to judge arises as well.  Things have been compounded as my daughters have grown a little older.  They ask me all the time why a person is asking me for money.  Generally I respond by telling them the different possibilities but also stress that simply asking for handouts is not the preferred route.  The message I convey to them is that work is always available, you have to be willing to do it.  What I will do is hand out food to those asking for change.  If they are truly desperate, they gladly take my offering but some refuse.

cleanwaterOn the other side of the coin, I do live a fortunate life and have money to spare–not that I am rich by any means–just a normal middle class life.  I have tried to donate to organizations in the past but then find out how little of the money goes to the efforts they claim to support.  It has paralyzed me to not give out money at all–until now.  Recently on my favorite podcast–The Rich Roll Podcast–there was an episode with Scott Harrison who started Charity Water.  I was greatly moved by the message of this charitable organization.  First, their battle is to bring clean water to the over 663 million people around the globe who have no access to a clean source.  Second, their model is completely transparent in which we as donors can see exactly where all the money goes.  They have 100% open books for their financials and do not keep any extra portion of the donations.  Their operating costs are completely covered by private donors.  They have even teamed with Google so you can track the status of the well(s) in which you contributed to see its status.

openbookFinally, and this blew me away, they have generated this concept of “Pledging Your Birthday”.  Instead of receiving gifts (almost all of which we do not really need), you can ask your family and friends to donate to this charity instead.  Some people use their age to be in dollars as the amount to ask and others just say donate whatever amount you would have spent.  I was very moved by this especially after hearing stories of children aged 7 donating their birthdays.  Can you believe that??!!  A child that age who is so wrapped up in the concept of getting new toys, dolls, gadgets, etc. being willing to forgo it all to help others. Wow! On top of that, I have been going through a slow transformation in the past several years of trying to minimize my life’s possessions.  When birthdays and holidays come around, I really do not wish to receive more “stuff”.  I am truly grateful for those thinking of me, but at age 42, I can honestly say I have everything I need (and more) materially.  My next birthday (unfortunately 11 months away) will be pledged.

100Maybe I buried the lede with this charity but you ask why water?  According to what I learned diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence including war.  In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.  Clean water helps keep kids in schools, especially girls.  Less time collecting the water means more time in class.  Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa.  When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back.  They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.

gpsI am fully aware that a post like this is way of the beaten path for me but I am excited over this project.  Personally, I am going to start contributing using their monthly subscription model.  According to their model, it only costs $30 to bring clean water to a person.  It is my hope that some of you will see this in the same light I did and feel comfortable to finally have an outlet to give and feel confident you are truly helping your fellow human.

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