Clean Water for Ethiopia

Picture 9

Last week I mentioned two important facts about water and the world around us.

Fact #1: The problem is serious. While the rest of us look at pictures of the iPad and debate what kind of healthcare reform America should have, one billion people in Africa and Asia don’t have clean water.

Fact #2: Empowering people at the local level is the best way to fix the problem. Addressing the global water crisis is probably the most important thing we can do to help people make their own choices. You can’t “design your ideal lifestyle” when your children keep getting sick from bad water.

This week, let’s add a third observation:

Fact #3: It’s best to tackle the problem one place at a time. The overall water crisis is hard to fix (one billion people!), but when you break it down country by country, region by region, and community by community, it’s not nearly as difficult.

With the third observation in mind, today I’m kicking off a different kind of launch.

What You Need to Know

1. I’ve chosen to work on this project with my friends at Charity: Water, and together we’ve chosen to focus on two communities in rural Ethiopia. 100% of donations – yours and mine – will be applied directly to project expenses.

2. I want to raise a minimum of $500,000 for water wells in Ethiopia over the next 18 months. I’d be happy with more, of course, but it’s good to have a goal.

3. My own commitment towards this goal includes 10% of all revenue (not just profit, but everything that comes in) from, 20% of all author royalties from my upcoming print book, and 100% of royalties for every reader I meet on the Unconventional Book Tour this fall. (The more people who come out, the more money we raise — more on that later.)

4. My accountant will provide a letter every year stating that I’ve kept my end of the bargain. I’ll also be discussing the project in every speech I give, and whenever I talk with people about AONC in general… which is pretty much every day.

5. Despite going all out, my own contribution will be a small part of the overall fundraising goal. The rest will need to come from friends, readers, and partners who want to be a part of the mission.


Over the next few months, I’ll tell you more about why this project is so important, and more about the specific communities in Ethiopia we’ll be partnering with. In late 2011 I’ll also take a small team to visit the communities and document the work that’s been done in cooperation with local leaders.

If this mission resonates with you, I would like you to be part of it with me.

Many of you have your own circle of influence or your own small army. When you speak, they listen to you because they trust you. I recently mentioned my support for Partners in Health in their relief effort for Haiti. Someone wrote in a few days later and said he read the post and felt compelled to give $10,000. WOW. Amazing, yes?

But then—he asked his friends to help out as well, and they raised ANOTHER $10k. I was suitably impressed, both by the donation and by the way his friends agreed to help double the initial amount. These are the kinds of things that happen with a group that is united in purpose to achieve something great.

If you have a blog, a classroom, an audience of some kind, you’re invited to be a partner in this project. You can donate directly, tell your friends, or get creative.

More information here:


P.S. We’re still working out a few things in terms of how the blogger commitments and partner opportunities will work, but I didn’t want to wait on launching this important project. (Another lesson from Linchpin: artists ship! Artists get things out! I agree.)

I figured some of you may not want to wait either, so that’s why it’s here now.


You can follow me on Twitter here
You can join AONC on Facebook here

And… you can support our Ethiopia Water Project here.

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.


  • Karen says:

    I’m constantly amazed at your ability to bring to the forefront so many situations that most people don’t even think about in the course of their lives. I don’t ever remember having to worry about where my next glass of water comes from, or whether I have water to cook food with, or clean my clothes or the myriad of other uses of water that we use on a daily basis. We take so much for granted.

    Thank you for bringing up this important topic. I’ll be checking out the Charity: Water page, for sure.

    $500,000 in 18 months?!?! That’s quite a stretch goal, but I think if anyone can do it, it would be you!

  • Heather Rae says:

    I am seriously in love with this project! I will definitely be taking part. Thank you for using your ‘small army’ for good.

  • Stace says:

    Have you considered making an ask for donations on a Friday, when many people get paid?

  • Joel D Canfield says:

    I completely dug Chip & Dan Heath’s excerpts from “Switch” in the new Fast Company (it’s online here).

    Addressing a very similar problem, their advice is “Find a bright spot and clone it.”

    After living in one of the world’s largest deserts (the southwestern US) and actually paying attention, I appreciate how easy I have it. I don’t have two nickels, or I’d donate one of ’em.

    But I know lots of people who are gonna hear from me about what you’re doing . . .

  • Chris says:

    Hey guys, thanks for your encouragement. This is going to be good.


    It’s an ongoing project, so I’ll be happy to accept help on Friday or any other day. 🙂

  • Joshua says:

    Awesome stuff Chris! I’m going to let my friends know all about this project and help you with the fundraising in any way I can.

  • Alex Rascanu says:

    Chris, your decision to support Charity:Water is an inspiration! Thank you for your great posts on travel and your positive impact in our global community.

  • giulietta nardone says:

    Great charity! I’m glad someone with a large reading audience is shedding light on a worldwide problem. The problem exists in the US as well. Within the next 12 years, 35 states are expected to face serious water shortages. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water suitable for drinking and only 1% is reachable. Converting sea water to drinkable water is expensive and creates its own environmental problems when the brine gets dumped back into the ocean.

    We have an infinite growth economy model butting up against finite natural resources, like water and land. It made sense 150 years ago to grow the economy infinitely. With the world reaching it’s population capacity in the next 30 years, an endless growth economy will outgrow the planet.

  • Te says:

    Chris — really great stuff, and quite inspiring. Keep it up. I’ve been meaning to buy one of your guides for some time, and have all the more reason to do so now.

  • Minority Fortune says:

    The only way that the Earth will stand to improve is if we do it ourselves. Your initiative in bringing clean water to rural areas in Ethiopia is commendable! Wishing you, Charity Water, and Ethiopia the best for this wonderful project.

  • Josh Wilson says:

    THIS is why I listen to you Chris. Absolutely outstanding! Definitely partnering.

  • Peter Shallard says:

    This is brilliant and ambitious. It adds a whole entire dimension to your work here on the site.

    It might sound weird, but believe me: Your site just got a whole bunch stickier.

    I’m going to enjoy seeing this project unfold.

  • Melanie says:

    very cool, Chris! I would love to be a part of this too. I want to see some big, worthwhile changes!

  • Jeanne Demers says:

    You are a terrific inspiration — on whose lead I love following. I’m glad Charity:Water is an ongoing project. I will put my mind to how I can use Ruby and Realize What Matters to create in service to it. Because…

    Water matters. Realize it.

  • Cheryl Mettler says:

    My daughter is in Ethiopia on a 27 month Peace Corps assignment. It’s amazing to learn about the sub-standard (from a U.S. perspective) living conditions in Ethiopia that my daughter has shared with us. I am equally amazed at her ability to successfully adapt to her new environment without the many ‘creature comforts’ Americans take for granted, like running water, electricity, heat, etc. Kudos to you, Chris, for your efforts to raise awareness and monetary funds to launch change!

  • soultravelers3 says:

    “Empowering people at the local level is the best way to fix the problem.”

    So true! Wonderful to see you taking on this project with a great organization like Charity Water and wishing you the best in this endeavor. My best friend is from Ethiopia so I have a great love of the country and beautiful people through her!

  • Cat says:

    Hi Chris,
    Whenever I start thinking about what I don’t have I usually begin to think about things like people going without the basics. Everyone on the earth should have food and water. I will definitely pledge. Thanks for the opportunity.


  • Scott says:

    Chris, thanks so much for supporting charity: water. We look forward to showing you and your community the impact they’re able to make in Ethiopia!

  • Ladyexpat says:

    What a great project! I’ve been traveling in SEA since 2000 and I have seen firsthand families and villages that do not have clean drinking water. In Cambodia a village well can be dug for as little as one hundred dollars. Not a lot of money to many of us, but a fortune to a family barely able to put food on the table.
    I will definitely be checking out the charity and contributing. I have no doubt you will reach your goal.

  • Robert Ford says:


    Count us in!


  • Adam Axon says:

    This is fantastic Chris.

    I’m onboard and I’m writing a blog post as we speak to try and encourage my readers to do the same.

    Together we can turn awareness into action, continual action.

    Kind Regards,

  • madaline says:

    I live in California and am acutely aware of the impending problems we are will be facing with water. It is a pleasure to join in….. going to shout out to my community and head them your way….

  • Alexa says:

    Chris, you’ve probably seen this article on J-PAL in Fast Company – it’s an interesting read on the fight against poverty and dispelling conventional approaches.

    Count me in. Any plans for a badge with a direct donation link I can post on my blog?

  • emma says:

    I was so moved by your initial post, and this one had me standing up and cheering. I will definitely be dropping you a note so I can become more involved to help this cause, though on a more modest scale that yours. I can’t even articulate how thrilled I am that you have stated such a bold intention. Will follow up with you regarding fundraising within a few weeks, just need to determine how to reach that $2000 commitment while unemployed so I’m not making empty promises…

    Again, thank you for the inspiration.

  • Liesl says:

    This really resonates with me. I am traveling at the moment and attempting to find my way out of the US. One of the things I have been looking for a way to do is give my time and effort to help, to volunteer. I have so little money that most would laugh that I’d dare travel without any. But I am compelled to. I’ve been searching for a way to be of service, but without having the money that so many organizations want just to participate, it has been extremely difficult to find a way. I have so much more to give that isn’t monetary means.

    If there is a way to give hands on help, that is something I can do I would love to know about it. If anyone has suggestions….

  • Etsuko says:


    Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be part of something larger than myself. Count me in and keep the inspiration coming!


  • Kjersten says:

    Beautiful Chris. Keep us updated on how to participate.

  • Kevin M says:

    As an accountant myself, this is a project I’d be excited to be a part of and track. I’m definitely interested and would love to help.

  • Diane says:

    I have spent 16 months in Ethiopia, and am now raising support to return for missionary work. It really touched my heart to read about your passion for clean water over there. I have personally seen in a large water creek, the brown dirty water with cows standing in it, while small children were bathing in the same water and yet others were filling there drinking water containers. The rivers in the village areas are no different. They are badly in need of help, wells are needed in the north east region to the Afar people where any water is scarce, and the farming village of Jeldu to name a few. This too is one of my big concerns when I return. Thank you for your love and passion for these precious people.

  • Cat says:

    I just donated $20.00 . I wanted to do it before a jillion other things make me forget!

    Thanks, Catherine

  • Audrey says:

    My husband and I expect to travel through Ethiopia in the next year. If timing works out and the projects are underway around the time we’re there, we’d be happy to contribute our photography skills to this project. I’ll send you an email to follow up.

    Great work in raising awareness and a community about this issue of clean water. I have a feeling these two communities in Ethiopia are only the beginning.

  • KC says:

    Chris, how about using Solar Power for the water project, if there are any kind of pumping requirements, we should use solar energy to pump water instead of conventional energy (diesel gensets are most common), also solar water distillation is a good idea. This way we can also spread awareness of renewable energy, while we address the water need.


  • Mark Lynch says:

    Hey Chris, fantastic idea. Glad to sign up with you. We’ve talked before about my kids (five of em… Riker and I were going to meet you in Portland last summer). I think the next generation will really be effected by these problems; and I think they’ll be a big part of the solution.

    When you go to check on the project, take a kid with you. We’d love to tag along with a couple of kids, just let me know when.

    The kids have huge networks building from upcoming TV projects. Lots of exposure.

  • Gayle Pescud says:

    Great stuff again. After almost 5 years in developing countries, 4 of which have been spent in Ghana, if I was asked to choose one thing (aside from world peace) to change, it’s access to clean water–exactly what this project addresses. Our water supply here in northern Ghana goes on and off at will. On the off days we can get it from a tap in the yard. But it went off completely for 2 days last week and, I can tell you, I was more than relieved that we had a bore hole only about 100 metres behind the house so we didn’t have to walk too far with buckets. But if we had no bore hole…I don’t know. We probably would have bought bottled or plastic bag water from town, but a bottle of water is equivalent to most people’s daily income. Clean water is fundamental. It’s the developed world’s biggest luxury. I’ll never take that for granted again. Anyway, I think your $500K target is attainable and I’ll be putting a blog post up about it too.

  • Luce says:

    Great intitiative Chris. It is almost unbelievable that Ethiopia is still having problem with food and water. I remember the first live aid concert and the ‘we are the world song’ was targetting the hunger problem in this part of the world. I don’t know what they had done with the money back then. Did they work on a permanent solution or only on the immediate need of the time which was big as people were dying in big numbers every day. I will definitely be interesting to see how you will work with the local community as I believe the education is a big part of making this a succes for many years to come. I’ve never been to Ethiopia but I was told that this country has beautiful landscapes and just wonderful people.

  • Kristin says:

    Thanks for bringing up this important issue. Knowledge is necessary before compassion can even begin. In other words: if you don’t know about it, you’re not going to care, or do anything, either, right?!

    Regarding water usage: Is anyone else like me – bothered by the amount of water that goes down the drain while waiting for it to turn hot – for showers, dishes, handwashing…?! And besides, I live in the desert. A very irrigated, backyard-pool-filled, golfers-paradise desert. Something’s wrong with this picture, methinks. It sure can be easy to take luxuries for granted. And difficult to give them up. Just how much, I ask myself, am I, too, a part of the problem?

  • William Lacey says:

    Really touched by this. I spent 6 months in Ethopia in 1989.

    I am a Project Manager Coach and would be willing to help in any way I can, including contributing some time and money.

    I will check out the link posted here. Am based in Europe.


  • Mneiae says:

    Thank you for working towards bringing clean water to those who need it. This is one of my passions. The most amazing thing, which you’ve already done, is raise awareness of this issue. I got here via a Rowdykittens e-book and I’m glad to hear that you’re promoting the cause.

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