Birthdays Bring Clean Water

Note: This is a guest post from Sarah Cohen at charity: water. Sarah worked in New York in the luxury and fashion industries for over six years until she left it all to travel around the world. As an avid traveler, she always dreamed of an opportunity to translate those business skills into helping people in the regions she visited. Now at charity: water, she has the opportunity to combine both passions — helping those in need while getting to see the world. This post tells about their birthday donation program.

by Sarah Cohen

charity: water was born in September, so every year we ask people to give up their birthdays by asking for donations instead of gifts. Since our kick off on Sept. 1 we’ve already had over 1700 people start fundraising campaigns including actress Kristen Bell, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and celebrity chef Katie Lee, who all gave up their birthdays for clean water.

Just last week, Will and Jada Smith — both September babies — joined the campaign, saying, “We believe every person on the planet should have access to clean drinking water” and this year, we’re celebrating our birthday with charity: water. Not only are they asking for donations instead of gifts — they’re also asking their friends and fans to give up their birthdays. They’ll then take the top three fundraisers with them to Africa to see the completed wells. Check out their video:

Will and Jada’s Birthday Celebration from charity: water:

Our September Campaign really focuses on one of the 17 countries where we work. In essence, we capture what we do best within a shorter time frame to highlight the direct and immediate impact of what we do year round — providing clean, safe drinking water to those most in need in developing nations.

This year we’re aiming to raise enough money to provide access to clean and safe drinking water to an entire native group in Central African Republic (C.A.R.), the Bayaka people. These are people at the bottom of society in C.A.R., which is one of the very poorest places on the planet. We’re working on the ground with our partner there, Jim Hocking, an American who was born in C.A.R., lived there all his life and his non-profit ICDI is the only organization there digging wells.

charity: water has operated on a 100 percent model since day one, which means that all of public donations go directly to building water projects. We’re adamant about proving each completed project we fund — so 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 the team traveled hours into the deep forest of C.A.R. to a village called Moale, where the forgotten Bayaka live without access to safe drinking water. Moale had tried to dig for water twice before and both times couldn’t reach it. But after consulting with hydro-geologists and securing a more robust drilling rig with our local partnering organization, we were confident we could hit water on our birthday… here’s what happened:

No water for our birthday: Day 1

We felt discouraged and disheartened that we really let the Bayaka living there down. But the local drillers encouraged us to move on to another Bayaka village called Jerusalem the next day to try again. Here’s what happened there:

A second try: Day 2

Water changes everything: Day 3

It took a risk showing our failure so publically, but we were met by an overwhelmingly positive support from our community. We think it’s crucial to show the reality of what it takes to work on the ground and that drilling wells and providing clean water to those in need is not without its many challenges and obstacles.

The first well of the 2010 September Campaign is complete. But our goal is to fund over 200 more water projects to really make a dent in Central African Republic’s water crisis.

And you can help. If you start a campaign before September ends, your money will go towards the September Campaign — helping the Bayaka people of Central African Republic get clean water. As always, 100 percent of all the money raised funds water projects for people in need. We hope you’ll join us!

Learn more at:

charity: water ( is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. One hundred percent of the money raised goes directly to project costs, funding sustainable clean water solutions in areas of greatest need. Just $20 can give one person in a developing nation clean water for 20 years. In four years, with the help of more than 100,000 donors worldwide, charity: water has funded more than 2,900 water projects in 17 countries. Those projects will provide over 1,277,000 people with clean, safe drinking water.

photo courtesy of charity: water and Esther Havens


Tracy K.
Tracy K7 years ago

Wish I'd read this last week... would have definitely changed my birthday wish.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

Thank you for a brilliant idea

Carly P.
Carly Pierson7 years ago

Why don't we all do that for our birthdays? Mine's coming up, and I am definately going to be asking for a donation- I don't need anything else. Be selfless. It's hard, but you know you are helping somebody, making a difference.

Tracy Cruze
Tracy Cruze7 years ago


Sue M.
Sue M7 years ago


gail d.
gail dair7 years ago


margaretha joan b.

gelukkig zijn er nog mensen die wel geven om anderen en niet alleen aan zich zelf denken thanks

kenneth m.
kenneth m7 years ago

you make it seem like the people that lived there for hundreds of years, Long before rich countrys were created. Are not capable of taking care of them selves. That is insulting. These are intellagent humans and know what they need for the past hundreds of years. we should keep our noses out of their business.

Dana W.
Dana W7 years ago

What a wonderful and inspiring idea and how great it is that celebrities are getting involved and encouraging others to do the same. It's nice to know that some celebs have interests outside of their careers.

Goodenough M.
Goodenough M.7 years ago

Well it sad what happening to the world i think wealthy countries should contribute some of their wealth to help those in need and also to save the world.Save the world it all up to us as human beings, but as to my understanding not a lot of us are educated in managing or looking after the environment as the world today is suffuring from drought in some countries poverty and so for i trully understand that we are the cause what is happening in todays world.All i can say is to those at the top of the ladder if you ead these message i hope that you will look at yourself in the mirror and ask what have i done to my world is it going to be there tomorrow, next year and so for as we are all humans with diffrent cultures diffrent races, diffrent nationalities but at the end of the we are all humans.Lets all live in peace and make the world a better place for feature generations and so on there is too much hatered in the world too much war too much greed too much suffering for us humans and those that share it too like nature itself they are also a living beings too so love it dont hate it.PEACE TO THE WORLD AND ALL SOULS OF MANKIND