How Birthdays are Changing the World

Four years ago, charity: water had a crazy idea. We asked people born in September to give up their birthdays and ask for donations instead of gifts -- to ask for their age in dollars. We used 100 percent of the $150,000 raised that month to fund water projects at clinics and schools throughout Kenya. Every September since, we launch a fundraising campaign to focus on one of the 17 countries where we work and really scale our work there. This year was our biggest September Campaign yet, one that took our team to the deep jungle of Central African Republic, where a forgotten tribe of people called the Bayaka live without access to safe drinking water.

charity: water always uses 100 percent of public donations to directly fund water projects, and a separate group of board members, private donors and foundations cover our staff and operating costs. We also prove each completed project we fund -- and on our anniversary, Sept. 7, we go to the field to broadcast the drilling of the first well funded by that year's September Campaign. This year, we traveled hours into the deep forest to a Bayaka village called Moale.

Moale had tried for water in the ground twice before, coming up short both times. But after consulting with hydro-geologists and with a new drilling rig that could reach depths of 800 feet, we went back with our local partners, confident we'd find water on our birthday...

Instead, here's what happened:

We were all discouraged. We felt like we'd let the Bayaka people of Moale down. But the next day, we moved on to a nearby Bayaka village called Jerusalem and tried again.

Here's what happened there:

It was a challenging but rewarding week. Sharing our failures has its dangers, but our community's responded with compassion, encouragement and resolve.

The first well of the 2010 September Campaign well is now complete and pumping water. But our goal is to fund over 150 more water projects to really make a dent in Central African Republic's water crisis. More than 2,000 people started fundraising campaigns for charity: water in September -- and their campaigns will continue to raise funds for C.A.R. until they close in December (our standard campaign period is three months).

September is over, but new campaigns are starting up every day. Most supporters are giving up their birthdays and asking for donations instead of gifts. Some are biking, swimming running or selling lemonade. Anyone can really do anything to raise money for water
projects. Please do consider joining our fight to bring clean drinking water to every person on the planet. One hundred percent of what you raise directly funds water projects in developing countries. Your next birthday can help change the world.

Learn more at charitywater.org.