Yesterday’s walk to the river was indeed “fairly strenuous.” I’m definitely feeling it today.
I know the two miles I walked yesterday carrying five gallons of water (weighing in at 40 pounds) doesn’t directly accomplish much of anything. When it stops raining and dries out a little bit I’ll just end up dumping that Mississippi River water out on my lawn, maybe use it water my hostas. I’m certainly no hero for doing it. More than anything it’s a good reminder that I need more exercise.
But what I love about it is the feeling of solidarity I get when I see pictures like this or this or this. Now I’ve felt what they go through. I have a tiny taste of what that must be like. It shifts your perspective and puts the whole thing in a whole new light. Knowing what they go through is one thing. Experiencing it is another. And hopefully that experience results in action on their behalf.
In a few days hopefully we’ll have the video up and you can get a better handle for that experience as I huff and puff my way up the river bluff.
As I’ve been talking about water all month I realize that it’s hard to grasp some of the numbers. So let’s get a little perspective. One billion people in this world lack access to clean water.
- That’s 1 in 6 people.
- That’s 5 times the number of active users on Facebook (currently at 200 million).
- That’s 33 times the number of Twitter users (currently at 30 million).
- That’s more than 3 times the total population of the United States.
Another number I’ve been throwing around is that this lack of access to clean water kills 42,000 people every week (90% of them children). That’s roughly 2.2 million people every year dying from dirty water.
- That’s more people than HIV/AIDS kills every year (2.04 million, so it’s pretty close).
- That’s way more people than die in traffic accidents every year (1.27 million).
- That’s more than the total population of New Mexico (or 15 other states, take your pick).
Just a little perspective for your Monday. You can donate now to help—it only takes $20 to give one person clean water for 20 years.
A couple weeks ago I took a walk. As part of this whole Bald Birthday Benefit raising cash and awareness about water, I’ve wanted to understand a tiny bit of what life is like for the more than one billion people in this world who don’t have easy access to clean water.
When I want clean water I turn to one of the 13 faucets in my house that offers water (that’s sinks, showers and outside spigots), usually with my choice of hot or cold water. The water is clean and pure and I pay very little for it (consequently, there’s little incentive to conserve).
The one billion people who live without clean water aren’t so lucky. Many of them walk as far as three hours per day to get water. And whatever water they need, they have to carry. Imagine spending three hours of your day hauling water back and forth. For every flush of the toilet or extra minute you spend in the shower, imagine if you had to walk three hours to get that water. And the water they get isn’t exactly clean. It’s usually chock full of parasites and disease, killing 42,000 people every week.
It’s kind of insane when you think about it.
Continue reading Walking for Water
I’ve been amazed at the results of the Bald Birthday Benefit. We shattered the initial $600 goal in only six days and so far given clean water to 57 people. On June 13 I’ll be shaving my head.
But there’s still that pesky $5,000 goal, the cost of a well in Ethiopia. But at this rate we’re not going to make it. So it’s time to up the ante. I’m shaving my head on June 13, but if we can hit $5,000, I’ll also shave my legs.
I realize we’re reaching ridiculous territory here. But why not? This is my last ditch effort to publicly humiliate myself for the sake of charity. And I’m throwing out this final challenge because, honestly, I don’t think you can do it. It would take nearly $300 a day to hit $5,000 (including today, which is almost over). That’s just nuts. It’s not going to happen.
So I’m throwing out this last, crazy challenge with near total confidence that I won’t have to do it. Because seriously—shaving my legs? Not something I need to experience.
Hear that, Internet? I just said you couldn’t do it. You’re not up to it. There aren’t enough people out there who want to see me shave my legs and give people clean water.
If you’d like to make me eat my words, shave my legs and [most importantly] give someone clean water, you can donate now.
But no matter how much we raise, this is going to be the best birthday ever.
So tomorrow will mark the halfway point in this little head-shaving, water-fundraising experiment called the Bald Birthday Benefit. Of course we hit the goal last week, raising $600 and giving clean water to 30 people in only six days. With my birthday still a few weeks away, we upped the goal to a ridiculous $5,000 to see how much more we could raise. At this point, every extra buck is just gravy since I’m still shaving my head for hitting the original goal of $600. And it’s all going to an amazing cause—charity: water.
I’ve been trying to spread the word about the Bald Birthday Benefit any way I can. So far it’s happened primarily online through this blog, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail. I’ve got about 900 followers on Twitter, 600 Facebook friends and I e-mailed about 200 friends. My blog probably reaches the least number of people out of all those methods, and oddly enough, even though all those methods point to my blog, my blog traffic is going to be lower this month than it has in any of the past three months (that’s primarily thanks to weirdly popular entries, like can a state secede from the U.S. and banana allergies).
I’ve been trying to blog and tweet about this a lot, attempting to capture people’s attention and hopefully gain more donations. I realize there are very few people who read every blog post, tweet or Facebook update. It’s very easy to miss one, so I’ve been trying to up the volume in hopes of catching more people. It seems to work, though I’m also very leery of being annoying. There’s a fine line between increasing the frequency and increasing the annoyance factor.
Continue reading Reflecting on the Bald Birthday Benefit
When was the last time you threw your arms in the air (like you just don’t care) for water?
This is awesome. This is the work of charity: water (photo by Esther Havens). It’s a village in Rwanda getting their first well (see more photos). This is where your donations for the Bald Birthday Benefit are going. You are making this happen.
So far we’ve raised $870 and enabled 43 people to throw their arms in the air like this. That’s awesome. That’s how I want to celebrate my 30th birthday. Let’s do it some more. Tell your friends. Write a blog post. Thumb a text message. Give a buck or two.
My water bill is about $85 every quarter. Sewer charges amount to about 75% of that. And I paid one-third to half as much when I lived in the city (my tiny suburb a mile away from downtown St. Paul gets gouged on sewer).
So that’s roughly $28 per month for clean water. And my water seems comparatively cheap. Last quarter my household used about 7,500 gallons of water (!) and we paid less than a third of a cent per gallon. My cost for water for 20 years (at current rates) is $6,800.
I’ve said before you can buy a lot of things for $20. One of those things is clean water for one person for 20 years through charity: water.
Hmm… I’ll pay $6,800 for water for 20 years. And I can give someone else water for 20 years for only $20. Or consider it monthly: I pay $28 per month for clean water. You can give clean water for 8.3 cents per month. What a deal! Consider taking advantage of that deal and giving someone water.
Last week I came across an interesting web site, Photos that Changed the World (thanks to kottke.org). Among the photos that grabbed me (c’mon, they’re photos that changed the world, they almost all grabbed me) was this one of a Sudanese child suffering from starvation while a vulture looks on in 1993:
The photograph won the Pulitzer prize. The photographer, Kevin Carter, later committed suicide (while the fame and controversy of this photo may have contributed to his death, it seems more complex than that). While the ethical questions of this photograph are important and complicated, that’s not what interests me.
What I found so intriguing about this photo is that it’s simply a little girl starving to death. When it comes down to it, something so incredibly simple and basic is killing her. The reasons for that suffering are much more complex, but in the end it’s pretty basic. She needs food and water. As damning as the photo is and as complex as the entire situation may be (are civil wars ever simple?), in the end it’s pretty simple.
That’s part of why I’m asking for water for my birthday. It’s staggering that something as simple as not having clean water is killing people. 4,500 children every day, to be exact. That’s a stupid reason to die. And as complex as the reasons may be for why these people don’t have clean water, the reason to act is pretty simple.
Water=life. That’s a pretty simple cause when you get down to it. There aren’t many people who will argue and protest the idea of giving starving people food or thirsty people clean water. Clean water is kind of a no-brainer. We may not agree on everything, but I’m hoping clean water is something everyone can agree on.
And if that’s all a little too heavy for you, perhaps a photo site of a completely different magnitude: Awkward Family Photos (thanks to Jason Boyett).
Well that didn’t take long.
On day six of the 2009 Bald Birthday Benefit we hit the goal of $600. In a mere six days you folks have helped me celebrate my 30th birthday by giving clean water to 30 people through charity: water. That’s so cool. Thank you.
Oh, and of course, this means I’ll be shaving my head. No more looking like a TBN cohost. Not to disapoint anyone, but as a matter of procedure I won’t be shaving my head until June 13. I honestly (and foolishly) thought it would take us longer to hit the goal and didn’t plan on shaving until then. Plus, we’re getting family pictures taken in early June and my wife insisted I have hair for the pictures (apparently not this hair though). While she loves the benefit part of this idea, she hates the baldness part, so she wins that debate. But don’t worry. On June 13 baldness will ensue.
The New Goal: A Well
Now on to business. I thought this thing would actually take 30 days and here we’re done after only six. What do we do now? We keep going, that’s what we do. I’ve still got a birthday coming up and there are still people out there without clean water. So let’s keep giving it to them.
Apparently I severely underestimated you people with my goal of $600, so it’s time to dream big. It’s time to go for a crazy, audacious, stupid goal. According to the folks at charity: water it costs about $5,000 to put in a new well in Ethiopia. We’re not set up to earmark these donations for a specific well in Ethiopia, but it still makes a great goal. A ridiculous goal.
So we’ve got 24 more days. Let’s see if we can build a well. Not for baldness, since that’s already assured, but for more water.
And again, thank you: Best. Birthday. Ever. (and it’s still a month away)
The immortal words of Homer Simpson on the usefulness of $20:
Homer: Oh, $20?! I wanted a peanut!
Homer’s Brain: $20 can buy many peanuts.
Homer: Explain how.
Homer’s Brain: Money can be exchanged for goods and services.
Yes, Homer, $20 can get you many things:
A hipster T-shirt.
Dinner for two.
The new Eminem and Green Day CDs.
A comfy lawn chair.
4 GB of memory for your digital camera.
An Internet DVD combo pack of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and The Guild.
Wait, that last one’s actually pretty good.
You could buy any of that stuff for $20. Or you could buy something else:
A much-needed haircut for a certain someone.
A birthday present for that same someone.
Clean water for one person for 20 years.
All three for $20. Now that’s a deal worth a woohoo.
Considering donating to the Bald Birthday Benefit. You can contribute to my impending baldness, wish me a happy 30th birthday and give someone clean water for 20 years. Woohoo!