My friend Krysta just linked to an article on twitter. In it, the author Kristen talks about how third world countries were not even on her radar until she visited Africa. She also echoes thoughts I had after I visited Haiti for the first time 3 years ago: “The perfect bubble I lived in has popped, I can’t pretend I don’t know how the rest of the world lives. And more importantly, I can’t keep living the same way.”
Before I went to Haiti with Raincatchers, I heard tons of stories about living conditions all over the place. I even thought I had “experienced” some of them by giving money or food to places like the Detroit Rescue Mission or Gleaners. While those places are ESSENTIAL for helping combat poverty, homelessness, and hunger, it really didn’t mean much to me other than it just feeling like it was the right thing to do or I was actually doing some good. In the end, it didn’t much affect my pocket book or my time. It was very easy to do…and I could still live my life how I wanted. I could still drive my car and eat however much I wanted where ever I wanted and whatever I wanted. I could have anything or however much to drink I wanted and I could sleep comfortably in my bed or watch TV or play video games on my nice comfortable couch.
After I went to Haiti, I realized that I had no idea what living on a little water was actually like. Check out this video:
One of the statistics that always gets me is that the average Haitian lives on 3 liters of water a day. If you’ll notice, it doesn’t say clean drinking water AND you’ll notice it doesn’t say they drink 3 liters of water a day. It says that’s what they live on. The 3 liters of water is what they use to wash, bathe, cook and drink.
That is crazy to me. Now, I get that most of us don’t really understand what 3 liters of water is in comparison to what a typical American uses. Look and see how many gallons your toilet flushes. The average toilet in America flushes 1.6 gallons of water. Do you know what that is in liters? The answer is 6. Every time we flush a toilet, we use twice the average amount of water that a Haitian uses all day long. According to energysavers.gov, the current Federal Regulations state that “new showerhead flow rates can’t exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm).” Let’s say you take a “short” shower of 5 minutes and you have a brand new – energy efficient shower head that has a flow rate of 2.5 gpm. That means you have used 12.5 gallons or just over 47 liters. In 5 minutes, you have used up almost 16 times the amount of water a Haitian has for all of their cooking, cleaning, bathing, and drinking in one day.
I know that’s a lot of math, but I think you get the point that we Americans flush a lot of water down the drain. What I haven’t showed you is the water they are using. Check out this video from Operation Blessing:
Yeah, that’s the kind of water over a billion people drink everyday. They drink that because it is all they have.
I get that you’re probably saying to yourself something to the effect of “but what can I do? I’m just one person.” I don’t know what’s right for you. For my family, it is about us taking a week out of our year and sending me to Haiti to help build rain catchers. We also monetarily support organizations and people who have decided that it is their fulltime mission to help people with needs. These people and organizations individually do things like help people get clean drinking water, teach people trades to support their family, and also help teach people about basic healthy living like washing your hands. We also give away a lot of food and toiletry items that my wife gets for free or really cheap by using coupons.
There are many opportunities to serve locally at soup kitchens or provide meals for your neighbors who have lost jobs or volunteer for a couple days with Habitat for Humanity or Blight Busters. There are also local food pantries who need volunteers to help stocking and organizing shelves. All of these opportunities are things you can do by yourself, with your family, or with a group of friends.
Some of you, however, need to experience poverty in a different way and might need to take some time away in a foreign country or spend a week with an organization that is helping those in need. For you, I suggest taking 1 week out of your vacation for this year and instead of spending it on a beach, ask your friends and family if they will help send you to make a difference in people’s lives by helping out an orphanage in Guatemala or building wells in Africa or building rain catchers in Haiti.
I’m not asking that you give up your current life and I’m not asking you to quit your job and move to Africa or Haiti. What I am asking is that you take some time out of your next 6 months to help make a difference in the lives of people around you. Don’t just give money, give an evening, or a day, or a week. People need it in a real and tangible way.
This is a challenge and I would love to know what you are going to do with it!