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Noteworthy - Living Water International

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A few weeks ago when I was on my luxurious kidless jaunt across America, I had the pleasure of visiting my college roommate Sarah. She was getting ready for a trip to Guatemala with an organization I was vaguely familiar with -
Living Water International.

The first thing I like to do when I get curious about an organization is check out their ratings on Charity Navigator. It is a great resource for finding out about the financial health and transparency of organizations that you are considering supporting. Living Water checked out very well. Once an organization passes the "I'm not a crook" test. Then they get put on my, slightly judgmental, chopping block. Beyond being aligned with my beliefs and values there are two subtle things that make or break the deal when it comes to my support... snob. I watch videos, read purpose statements, asses web designs, critique language, and evaluate fundraisers... with two questions in mind.
Does this organization promote dignity? 
Who wants to feel like a charity case? Not me! Dignity is defined as: the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Everyone deserves dignity. It can be easy for organizations (and individuals... like myself) to forget about dignity when we get "busy" saving the world. People can't thrive without it. HOPE International is an organization that won my heart for their attention to the details of dignity.

In this video, Katie Nienow does a fantastic job of explaining why dignity is critical in effecting sustainable change for people living in poverty.

Is this organization artful?
I assure you, being artful has roots much deeper than the hipster movement... think creation. It's more than just being cool. According to the dictionary... artful organizations are skillful in accomplishing a purpose, especially by the use of cunning or craft. I have pretty strong convictions about creativity - we were, after all, made in the image of a creative God. I like when organizations (and people) are a little bit clever. Be excellent on behalf of the people you serve! They deserve it. Laity Lodge takes the "win" for being the most artful place I have ever been. This beautiful essay by Steven Garber captures what makes Laity Lodge so unique.

Living Water International
There were a lot of factors that lead me to conclude that Living Water International is totally worthy of my support. But THIS was the video that tipped the scales. Dignified and artful. Sarah Nyangare Owiti, Sharon Awuor Owino and Mary Atieno Odhiambo - three Kenyan teens, in their school house, reciting (with electric passion) a poem about water... a resource I take for granted every day.

An eight year old's perspective
As I virtually "stalked" Living Water International, my eight year old son was looking over my shoulder. This is the video that caught HIS attention. He was primarily concerned with the fact that Lucy Marwa has to walk up a mountain (where there are scary baboons, snakes and monkeys) to get dirty water. 

The lemonade stand
Max didn't waste much time critiquing the validity of this organization. While I was taking an afternoon nap he started working. Picking lemons, cutting, taping, making signs, writing informational handouts for customers, recruiting an able-bodied workforce.

Warm lemonade brings out the neighbors
His efforts were not in vain. We had a crowd at our house all weekend long. Many were inspired and refreshed by Max's "kindof warm kindof cold" fresh lemonade. We met more neighbors this weekend than we have in our entire time here in New Zealand. The lemonade stand made a whopping sixty eight dollars...
a remarkable profit considering the poor location and unseasonable timing. It is winter in New Zealand, hence the kindof warm lemonade.

Lemon trees and next steps for the stand
One night when we were out with our small group I made a comment about the remarkable abundance of lemon trees in Rotorua. One of the guys said "yeah - if you buy a house in Rotorua and it doesn't have a lemon tree... you sort of feel jipped". The neighborhood kids picked all the lemons off of three trees this weekend. Max and Maggie are planning to ask kids at school for lemon donations, so that they can keep the stand running.

Lesson learned
It is really important to care about things like dignity
and artfulness. But while searching for the perfect organization... don't miss your opportunity to make lukewarm lemonade.

Thanks for doing important work kids. In my overly critical opinion... Living Water International is an organization very worthy of your time and efforts.

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