EXCLUSIVE: The founder of “The Thirst Project” talks to Charity Spring

SethMaxwellSeth Maxwell was a 19-year-old acting student in Los Angeles when a brief meeting with a friend who’d just returned from Africa changed the course of his life forever. Upon learning that almost one billion people lack access to clean water and that water-borne illnesses account for more than 80% of all global disease, he gave up acting to focus on water education. The Thirst Project is a movement of young people who are raising awareness around and bringing solutions to the global water crisis. Combining outreach and water well implementation, The Thirst Project has completed more than 392 freshwater development projects across the globe and reached 200,000 American students with its eye-opening educational programs.

Charity Spring scored an Exclusive interview with him.

Tell us about The Thirst Project. What is the initiative all about?
Almost 1 billion people on the planet do not have access to safe, clean water, and 4,400 kids under the age of five will die today from drinking dirty water. The Thirst Project is a movement of high school and college students that builds freshwater wells in developing nations and impoverished communities to provide people with safe, clean water.  A nonprofit organization, The Thirst Project travels across the United States speaking at schools to educate students about the global water crisis and challenge them to fund raise to build wells. 100% of all public gifts go directly to funding freshwater wells on the ground. The Thirst Project has given more than 180,000 people in 11 countries safe, clean water.

Your initiative is innovation at its best. How did you come up with this idea?
I was 19, living in Los Angeles, studying in college, and I had a friend who was a photojournalist for National Geographic, who returned to LA from a trip that she took all over the world for about a year and a half. We got together at Starbucks to catch up, and I sat, stunned, as I looked at picture after picture after picture of three, and four, and five-year-olds on the side of the road, drinking water out of puddles, ponds, swamps, stuff that looked like chocolate milk. And I wasn’t just looking at some far off or removed “sad pictures,” but I began to listen to the most piercing stories of people who she had befriended over a three or four month period each of the communities she worked in, many of whom she watched died of dysentery, cholera, things I had never even imagined. All as a direct result of just drinking dirty water. seth maxwellI went home and began researching, and discovered that there are almost one billion people on the planet, still, today, in 2013, who do not have access to basic, safe, clean drinking water. I learned that 4,400 children under the age of five die EVERY DAY as a result of drinking dirty water. So, I couldn’t ignore it. My entire worldview was shattered. I started by just raising awareness on my college campus with my friends. Shortly after we started, two schools asked us to speak about the water crisis at their school and what we were doing about it at our campus. Just one month later, both schools had done fundraisers and raised over $12,000 that they gave to us to build wells. THAT was the moment I knew we could do something significant, and The Thirst Project was born.

Seth, you are one of of the youngest social entrepreneurs today. Do you see yourself doing something else too in the near future? Something even more ingenious and breakthrough in the world of philanthropy?
Thank you so much for the kind words and compliments. I don’t think of myself as some crazy innovator. I just think of myself as responding to a need in the most natural way I could. I don’t know that I’ll work for The Thirst Project FOREVER (I’m only 25, after all), but, I’m here for the foreseeable future. We made a huge commitment last year to give the entire nation of Swaziland safe, clean water within the next decade, so I’m definitely here for the next 10 years. Who knows after that. :)thirst-project

The Thirst Project is operational in different parts of the world, how do you decide the location of your project?
We have a Water Project Technical Board (separate from our actual Board of Governors). This Technical Board is comprised of 3 Civil Engineers and 2 Hydrologists. Their sole role in The Thirst Project is to oversee the water projects we implement and maintain our Sustainability Practices. They are the ones who determine where we build, how we build, how we engage communities, etc. Thirst-Project_Logo

How can our readers help in making your noble cause a huge success?
The best way for teens to get involved is to bring us to their school on our School Tour! To do that, email Amber@ThirstPoject.org! After that, DO SOMETHING! Raise awareness on your campus, host a fundraiser, and get your friends and school to raise funds to build a well!

PLEASE provide support to this noble cause by volunteering and donating. Extend a helping hand and save a dying kid :)


kidswaziland kid

The Burning Spirit of Gratefulness

image source:www.alzcareblog.comMusic lets us all know that the surprise of life is no mistake. Just as music is our way of saying Thank You for the gift of life, as a charity strives for perfection, music has a way of keeping the charity humble and grateful for the privilege of serving.

Music heals the world and it won’t be wrong to say that music breaks all barriers of language, religion and class. Music is an integral part of my life and it is likewise for all of us. Right from the early chirping of birds to the traffic noise, music is everywhere in some or the other form. The reason why we have artists on the Charity Spring team is because their creativity and desire to share their talent and message through song dispels the cold light of intellectual understanding that constantly analyzes and differentiates. Music offers a spirit that burns within the heart and makes the soul come alive.

We live for love. Sometimes it is born of passion and devotion. For artists, sometimes it is hard-won, requiring hard work and sacrifice. But unless we live for love, we will not be able to meet challenges confidently and with integrity when they come. Sometimes all we need is the humility of a song to surprise us out of our clashes and complaints and into the joy of gratitude.

The world beyond “me” is difficult to understand. Our viewpoints don’t match, we don’t think on the same wavelength but that doesn’t mean that I will create my own world to survive. I have to adjust, listen and compromise to stay in harmony with the world. A charity needs to lift up its eyes to the privilege of having a cause greater than itself to serve. That alone will quicken the charity and kill the peddling charity it wrongly calls itself.

image source:jsorman.comI am a self involved person. I prefer doing things in my own wrong ways because I like to learn lessons out of them. I don’t like to ask for advice from my parents or anyone around. But can we all afford to do this? Too often a charity striving for perfection is in reality painstakingly preparing for its own catastrophe. The “perfect mother” can drive her children to rebellion just as surely as a charity can forget its mission. By driving for perfection in the good works to which we devote our lives we can end up narrowing our vision and burning out.

We all are trying to strike a balance in our life. I try to be good but I may be totally failing at my attempt to do so. The human nature begs to defer to each and everything that the other person is doing. My deeds may be regarded as offending acts to some and charitable acts to some others. To become engaged in philanthropy is to regain a sense of what animates us all. Charity is our humble answer to the surprise of living. Wiser than all the libraries is the simple act of giving and receiving, the vulnerability, trusting — and love — involved in that most fundamental of all human acts. It is gratefulness, a burning spirit, that makes a charity great.

Music is an integral part of Charity Spring because we believe that gratitude needs to play a greater role in fundraising than solicitation. A charity finds its meaning and life from the community. A charity needs to be more creative in expressing its gratitude than merely churning out letters. We have ideas on how to incorporate music into a charity’s expression of giving thanks. Do you have ideas? Have you seen a charity use music effectively to communicate its mission and to engage its community? Please share with us your experience and suggestions.

image source:www.welchmusic.com