Scott Harrison – Catalyst 2010

Scott Harrison founded charity:water.

My mom’s life was destroyed by carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of a problem with a furnace installed by the gas company. She had all kinds of very serious chronic health issues. My parents decided not to sue the gas company.

I was a good Christian kid, but like so many cliché Christian stories, I rebelled at age 18. I spent ten years chasing sex and alcohol as a club promoter in NYC. I was paid $2k/month by Bacardi and $2k/month by Budweiser to drink in public.

I went on an amaing vacation. I was doing drugs out of bordom on the vacation. I started reading “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer. Six months later I got an opportunity to leave everything behind. Organizations didn’t want me. I was a nightclub promoter, but one organization took a chance on me to be a photographer for Mercy Ships. We did facial reconstruction surgery on people with serious problems, tumors and the like.

I got the idea, what if we could go out and find someone who hadn’t heard about mercy ships who needed surgery. I found Harris, who had a huge facial tumor, the size of a soccer ball. After 8.5 years of waiting, he got a new face. I got to take him home exactly one month later. I threw him a huge party, dinner for 200 and an open bar for the whole town. It cost $185, including security.

I took 50,000 photos during the two years I was there. I was broken. I came back a mess. The toughest part was when the doors would shut, and 5000 people were turned away. Some people had walked a month from Chad and were told we don’t have enough space.

I started learning about water while I was there. Another guy on the ship would take me to the villages and show me the water supplies. He’d work with the villagers, and six weeks later

At the end of the two years I came back to find my mother, after 28 years of sickness, was absolutely healed. In other news, my friends were drinking $16 margaritas. It takes $16 to buy a bag of rice to feed four people.

I was 30. I was bold. I wanted to solve every world problem. I chose water because I learned that 1/6 of the earth lacked clean watter. Here in the States, we’re responsible for 150 gallons of water per person per day.

80% of disease was related to unclean water and unsafe toilets. Leeches were a huge problem. The big ones weren’t the problem, it was the little oens that would get through filtration. We learned that half of schools didn’t have clean water or toilets.

A typical well cost only $5000 dollars. It would take 6 months. We learned that water changes everything. It brought hope and dignity to people. It transformed their lives.

My friends didn’t want to give to charity because we don’t know how much of the money went to charity.

  1. One we decided to give all of the money people gave to charity, find the operating expenses soemwhere else.
  2. We decided to provide proof. A photo and GPS coordinates always go on Google Earth.
  3. Build a brand – We started by throwing a party, the only thing I knew how to do.  We charged people $20, and did a project, then followed up with them on the results.  People were amazed we did that over $20.  We used quality marketing.  We even got space donated.

A year later I couldn’t scale the club party. People started to donate their birthdays. A 7 year old raised $22k dollars. A radio host raised $400k. Mountain climbers raised $19k, a dollar for every foot. A nine year old girl gave up her meals for a month, rice and beans, and she raised $15k. She built three wells.

We realized if we got out of the way, people could make a much bigger difference.

We’ve raised enough together to give 1.277 million people clean water.  But we’ve done very, very little towards our problem.  We’ve solved 1/1000 of our problem.  A million seconds is 12 days.  A billion seconds is 32 years.  Let’s go for 100 million in ten years.  We’d need $2 billion to do it.  We would only need 2 million birthdays in a decade.  2 million people to run fundraising campaigns in 2 years.

We will not stop fighting until everyone on this planet has clean water to drink.

5000 kids die each day because they don’t have clean water.

Posted at 11:11 AM on October 7th, 2010
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