Pulse December 2015 - Page 41

fact, 56 percent of all the sickness in the developing world comes from dirty water,” he says. This realization has led Harrison to his life purpose: help provide access to clean water to people who need it most. Two years after he volunteered for Mercy Ships, he founded charity: water. In Their Words Help tell other people’s story. “The story that has impacted me the most on a visceral level is the story from Ethiopia of a 13-year-old girl named Letekeros,” Harrison says. Letekeros’ daily routine included an early morning walk for water. She would get up daily while it was still pitch black outside, grabbed her clay pot and met up with her friend. Together, they would walk down a steep ravine so they could wait in line for hours to fill their jars with water. One day on her way back home, she slipped and fell, then dropping and breaking her clay pot. She watched in horror as water slipped out into the dust. Not only did she waste eight hours trying to get the water she accidentally spilled, but worse, the clay pot was a valuable asset for the family. The “shame of her carelessness” and the consequence of leaving her mother and sister without water was too much for her to bear. “She took the rope and untangled it from the handle of the clay pot, threw it over a tree branch and hung herself,” Harrison recounts her story. “This story hit me at such a deep level. This is not about the 663 million people who are drinking bad water because of where they were born. It’s not about this huge statistics, but it’s about little girls with names, and feelings and hopes and dreams,” he says. Invite people into the story. One of the creative fundraising ideas initiated by charity:water is the idea to donate birthdays. On the first year anniversary of the organization, Harrison gave up his birthday and asked people to give a monetary gift equivalent to his age. The idea soon caught on and people from all walks of life started donating birthdays to help bring clean water all over the world. Perhaps the most powerful story yet is that of nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith, whose last wish was to give up her birthday to raise funds for charity: water. She was killed in a car accident shortly after her ninth birthday. Her goal was to raise US$300 for charity:water. Word of her generosity spread like wildfire and through people’s donations all over the world, up to US$1.2 million was raised in her memory. “What this tells us as an organization is that, this story doesn’t belong to us. This is not charity: water’s story. This is the story of our community,” he says. “And we need to keep inviting people into this to bring the best of themselves, whether it’s their birthday or their crazy idea.” n “As I do each year I want to remind you of your power. Every day you have the opportunity and the obligation, from my point of view, to help your clients by going beyond the healing therapies and services you offer. I want you to be leaders, counselors, advisers and friends to your clients, their families and communities.” DEBORAH SZEKELY • Rancho La Puerta and WELLNESS WARRIOR Founder “It’s the aliveness and purity of the food that ignites the aliveness and purity within us. It’s the subtlety and complexity of real taste—not taste covered up or accentuated by salt or sugar or preservative—that excite the internal systems within us or reorganize themselves in a healthier, more vibrant pattern.” ALICE WATERS • Chez Panisse Founder and 2015 ISPA Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award Recipient December 2015 n PULSE 39