Friday, August 4

Northern Uganda - Gulu Province

I went looking for dirty drinking water this morning.

Stuffed in the back of a blue Toyota land cruiser with a human rights activist and two local Ugandan humanitarians, I hurtled north towards the Sudanese border. A military truck carrying five camouflauged army fighters with AK-47's followed closely behind, the soldiers choking in our red dust.

We passed several army roadblocks and convoys, necessary measures in Uganda's wild wild northwest to defend travelers and Acholi villagers from Joseph Koney's dangerous LRA rebel soldiers recently seen in the area. I took in a Ugandan sky with a bigness hard to describe. It's a sky that seems to press too close to the ground as stacks of cumulous layer then rupture to reveal patches of deep blue.

Blue feels out of place here.

16 miles shy of the Sudan border, we reached our destination. the Atiak IDP camp, home to 23,638 Internally Displaced Persons in crude circular mud huts with thatched straw roofs. They abandoned their villages 10 years ago when their children were snatched from their homes by Koney's troops and forced to bear arms, to kill. 150 of them were massacred in town center in 1995. Now, there is safety in numbers, safety in the camp.

"Take me to the water source" I asked Alex, one of the camp's leaders, who cheerfully led me outside the camp through tall grass and down a slope to a water hole. A few acholi women were gathered there, drawing water from a source that some time ago would have shocked me.

The water was murky, stagnant, unsafe. Through Alex, I asked them why they were gathering water here, when there were 10 bore wells scattered throughout the vast camp. I listened and learned that the lines to take water from the cement wells were between 6 - 8 hours long. That the wells served more than 2300 people each and didn't produce enough water. The women couldn't wait in line today and like many others, had come to gather water from this fetid mud hole.

Many here in East Africa don't even have their choice.

During my extensive tour of Rwanda last week, a little more than an hour south of its broken and busy capital, I took the following pictures of a local source of drinking water. I then choked back anger and tears as viscous, brown water was gathered from a swampy pit and poured into filthy $3 jerry cans, then strapped to bikes and hauled miles uphill to be used for drinking, cooking and washing.

"Why don't they just boil the water?" I've been asked more than a few times.

Rwanda's and Uganda's poor live on less than $1 dollar a day, so the answer is simple. They don't have the money to buy the charcoal that would sanitize their water.

So they die of thirst - literally. Their children die of diarrhea, as they drink contaminated water that dehydrates them and makes them thirst for more of the same. A vicious cycle of dirty fluid and death. They contract worms and parasites, and even nastier diseases with long clinical names and too many consonants.


Those of you who've been in contact with me for the past few months or have heard me lecture, know I've poured all my time and energy into setting up a non-profit entity in New York City I called simply, charity:

In may, when I toured 10 European cities in three weeks speaking about the incredible work of mercy ships, I was taken aback at a general disenchantment with giving - a lack of confidence in charity's effectiveness.

"Only 20 cents of my dollar reaches the poor" I would hear or "What about all the money wasted during the Tsunami? Or Katrina?" "Some guy's driving a lexus in South Africa with my pledge."

Charity for me is different than that. From the latin word "caritas" it simply means love. Webster defines it as the voluntary giving to those in need. To those that need our help. Because we can. The King James Bible reads, "If i have not charity, I am nothing." It says that those without charity make noises like banging cymbals, like gongs. Empty noises.

I knew that well, living for more than a decade in New York making those empty sounds.

The vision for charity first came to me in Liberia as I realized the disconnect of so many I knew from the actual issues of poverty, and of the incredible work being done on the ground. The idea was simple, and something I'd done before with the mercy show in New York. Produce global exhibitions that educated the public about crucial issues, then connected them to the "little guys" - the small, over-performing non-profits i'd seen struggle for awareness and funding. I wanted to allow the public to be part of a tangible solution, then close the loop with photographs and video and show them what those solutions looked like.

charity: will do three things.

1. Education and Awareness. We'll teach the public about important global concerns like water & sanitation, hunger, child trafficking, genocide, preventable diseases, education and more. we'll do this initially through high profile exhibitions in the indoor galleries and outdoor parks of major world cities. We'll use multimedia and webcams to really show what's going on in the developing world, connect you to the need.

The exhibitions will capture imaginations, transporting viewers to the developing world and then offer glimpes of hope. Imagine stepping into an IDP camp, or loading a giant famine relief plane with $16 bags of rice in a city park. Imagine the opportunity to buy vaccines, Anti-Retroviral drugs or malaria bed nets for pennies and dollars that actually reach those in desperate need of them. Or $20 bottles of spring water where 100 percent of the money translates directly into freshwater wells for those without access to clean water.

2. Non-Profit Support. We'll provide financial and promotional support to highly efficient and effective non-profits. we've partnered with america's largest non-profit watchdog, Trent and his crew will make sure we select only the most fiscally responsible and productive non-profits. we'll connect you with the underdogs, the underfunded non-profits who aren't advertising on billboards or on television, the unsung heros out there every day - digging wells, running health clinics - educating, feeding, adopting, caring.

3. Donor Support. We'll allow donors put a face to their giving and actively engage in the process of giving. Imagine logging onto a webpage every morning to see the foundation dug of your primary school in india, or the bricks stack higher on your health clinic in West Africa. The pump churning water atop your company's freshwater well in Central America.


I need your help now. We need money.

The first issue we're tackling with a show is water. We've done extensive research for two months to learn as much as we can about the issue, and the facts are startling.

- More than 1.2 billion people lack access to clean water.

- More than 1 billion walk more than 3 hours a day for their water.

- And when I flush the toilet in my Soho apartment, I use more water than someone in the developing world does all day to drink, wash, cook and clean. That's unacceptable to us because something can be done about it. I've conceptualized and begun to build an outdoor water exhibition that will begin in New York and then move to other cities.

We now need your financial support to realize the show.

The charity: water show looks like four 12 foot by 8 foot walls with aquariums containing "dirty" water that face off against a 16 foot plexiglass cylinder containing a thousand bottles of $20 custom labeled water. The inner walls educate the public about water and highlight the work of four organizations diggin freshwater water wells in the world's poorest countries. We'll sell the water during the hot summer days and use 100 percent of the money away build wells in impoverished nations. It's that simple.

Get the project proposal PDF by clicking here.

If you're in a position to financially support charity: or the water project with a one-time or monthly gift, please just reply to this email. I fly back to NY next week to fundraise and build the show in time for its September NYC launch.

A big thanks to the hundreds of you that have offered to volunteer in NY for the project. You'll hear from us soon. And crack NYC-based web designers Code & Theory have graciously begun helping us develop our beta website, so stay tuned for the launch of

Scott Harrison
from Uganda

August 4, 2006

To see all water images from local sources in Rwanda & Uganda, open the gallery here

To see images of the Rwandan genocide from the mass graves and memorials, open the gallery here


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