|nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith|
On July 23, 2011, nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith was killed in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. After her death, thousands of people all around the world started donating to her mycharity: water fundraising page, and over the course of a month, raised over $1.2 million in Rachel's honor. That money is now helping 60,000 people get access to clean water. It's been exactly a year since the accident. In honor of the anniversary, Rachel's mom, Samantha, and her grandparents, Richard and Roseanne, visit Ethiopia with charity: water and meet some of the people Rachel helped. We've documented the entire day on video so we can share it with all of you. charitywater.org
A little over a year ago, Rachel was your average 9-year-old. She loved Taylor Swift and had a secret crush on Justin Bieber, although she'd never admit it. She had a loving family and a heart that wanted to solve every problem she saw in this world. Once, she cut off all her hair and donated it to make wigs for kids who had cancer. So when she sat in church one day and heard Scott Harrison from charity:water give a talk about how kids her age in Africa didn't have clean water to drink, she immediately decided to help.
With her mom's encouragement, she created a fundraising page on mycharitywater.org, telling her family and friends that she didn't want presents for her ninth birthday. Instead, she asked them to donate $9, as she was turning 9. Rachel wanted kids like her to have clean water to drink.
She had a big goal: to raise $300 and give 15 people clean drinking water. She fell a little short, raising $220, and told her mom that she'd try harder next year. A month later, Rachel was in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. A trailer had jack-knifed into a logging truck, sending logs tumbling down the freeway. More than a dozen cars were caught in the pile-up, and the trailer smashed into the back of Rachel's car. She was the only person critically injured, and on July 23rd, 2011, she was taken off life support. When the news spread about Rachel's story and her birthday wish, people all around the world began to donate on her page. Some gave $9, some $19, leaving comments like "This is the rest of my month's salary....." A month later, 30,000 people had given more than $1.2 million. All of us at charity: water were blown away by the generosity. The comments and notes that were left on Rachel's page caused many tears in the coming months, and Rachel's story continues to inspire us today. Last year, we sent 100 percent of the money from Rachel's campaign to our partners in Tigray, Ethiopia, and they began to construct water projects for people in need. We made a promise to Rachel's mom that one day she'd come with us to Ethiopia to meet some of the people Rachel's wish had helped.
Monday, we fulfilled that promise.
On the one-year anniversary of Rachel's death, we woke up early, at 5:30 A.M. We piled into Land Rovers and began the two-hour drive to Kal Habel village in the north of Ethiopia. We heard the community had planned both a memorial service in Rachel's honor and a celebration of her life.
We didn't know it then, but honor would become the theme of our entire day. First, we visited a church. The priests there knew all about our arrival, and they knew Rachel's story. They told us they had been up since midnight, praying that God would keep Rachel's soul in peace. A photo of Rachel stood on the ledge, surrounded by candles. We paused, listening to the priests recite their prayers, singing ancient Ethiopian hymns over Samantha and her parents. From the church, we walked to a new well nearby that was funded by Rachel's donations. We cut the ribbon and watched water splash into bright yellow jerry cans. This water didn't have dirt or leeches in it, and it didn't carry deadly disease. It wasn't far away from people's homes, and they didn't have to walk for hours to find it. It was right there, in their village, and it was crystal clear. To prove it, Samantha took a long drink. The children wrote notes about Rachel, and handed them one by one to Samantha. A famous priest read a poem he wrote especially for the occasion, and then the village gave gifts to Rachel's family. A mother from the village made a speech and said Rachel's story would be a lesson to their children. She said that all the mothers in her village were praying for Samantha. Another community sectioned off a plot of land and called it Rachel's Park. They invited Samantha and her grandparents each to plant a tree in Rachel's memory. Near the well, our local partners, Relief Society of Tigray (REST), commissioned a marble sign. It read "Rachel's great dream, kindness and vision of a better world will live with and among us forever." Her photo was nested in the marble, a permanent fixture in Kal Habel village. It will serve as a reminder to all the mothers who draw water from this well that a mother's tragic loss and a child's dream brought clean water to their village. Sixty thousand people in over 100 villages will drink clean water because of Rachel's wish.
Rachel's mom, Samantha, continues to fundraise in Rachel's honor. Visit her current fundraising campaign to donate.
charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
we face growing concerns about our stewardship of the world's
most precious resource. There's talk of shortages, evidence of
reservoirs and aquifers drying up, and of course, plenty of people
who simply don't care.
But forget about us.
Most of us have never really been thirsty. We've never had to
leave our houses and walk five miles to fetch water. We simply
turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet there are
800 million people on the planet who don't have clean water.
It's hard to imagine what 800 million people looks like really,
but one in nine might be easier. One in nine people in our
world doesn't have access to the most basic of human needs.
Something we can't imagine going 12 hours without.
Here, we'd like to introduce you to a few of those 800 million.
They are very real, and they need our help. They didn't choose
to be born into a village where the only source of water is a
polluted swamp. And we didn't choose to be born in a country
where even the homeless have access to clean water and a toilet.
We invite you to put yourself in their shoes. Follow them on
their daily journey. Carry 80 pounds of water in yellow fuel cans.
Dig with their children in sand for water. Line up at a well and
wait eight hours for a turn.
Now, make a decision to help. We're not offering grand solutions
and billion dollar schemes, but instead, simple things that work.
Things like freshwater wells, rainwater catchments and sand filters.
For about $20 a person, we know how to help millions.
Start by helping one »
ALWAYS USE 100% OF PUBLIC DONATIONS TO FUND CLEAN WATER PROJECTS
IN THE FIELD.
general public — 100% of their donations would go directly to the
field to fund water projects. We'd find another way to cover our
operating expenses. And we'd even reimburse credit card fees when
donations were made online.
We depend on private donors, foundations and sponsors to cover
everything from staff salaries to basic office systems to office rent and supplies.
These donors are some of our most dedicated: their investment fuels our long-term mission,
our ability to scale as an organization and our mission to continue using
100% of public donations for water projects.
Wondering if our 100% Model has been audited? Read the 100% Model Audit Opinion here »
MICHAEL & XOCHI BIRCH.
Our largest operations gifts have come from entrepreneur and family man Michael Birch. In 2009, he not only generously donated $1 million in operations funding; he also promised to match funds raised at our annual gala -- again for operations. To date, Michael and his wife Xochi have invested more than $4 million towards charity: water's infrastructure. We're grateful for their belief in our work.