If you read one book this year, it should be Thirst. Scott Harrison’s 2018 memoir is a story of redemption and one selfish man’s understanding that the world is bigger than himself. Harrison, founder and C.E.O of Charity: Water, talks us through his life story, following his journey from a club promoter to his founding one of the most successful non-profit charities worldwide, with the single goal of providing universal access to clean drinking water.
I’m not going to write a completely one-sided review suggesting that “if you’ve ever read words you’ll love this book.” There are lots of religious aspects to the book and in some parts it felt too heavy on the “Hallelujah! Praise Be!” message (Harrison is an only child to Born Again Christians, so this isn’t completely out of place). On the other hand, however, it’s refreshing to read about someone rediscovering their faith after a long time apart from it. Even as a non-religious reader, I still enjoy understanding what motivates people like Harrison, be that religious faith or something else.
To rebel from a strong religious upbringing, and a stifling home environment shaped by his mother’s experience of illness, Harrison ran off to New York City straight after high school and dove headfirst into the club promoting scene. Alcohol abuse and substance abuse go hand in hand in the life of a club promoter; it took Scott ten years of working the circuit to realise his life was empty. Whilst he had all the material possessions and the NYC loft we all dream of, he would wake up with the worst hangover ever, every single day, asking: for what?
In searching for deeper meaning in his life, Harrison rediscovered his faith when he heard a politician talk about doing God’s work in a speech on the radio. Then, after listening to huge sections of an audio book of the Bible, Harrison turned to charity work. That’s when he stumbled across Mercy Ships, a non-profit organisation that consists of mobile hospitals in the form of big ships. I’m not going to debate the ethics of religion-inspired charities here; regardless of their motivations, the work they carry out is a good thing in itself. After two tours as Chief Photographer along the shore of the western coast of Africa, Harrison realised that the biggest contributor to all the illness he saw was a lack of fresh drinking water.
And so began Charity: Water. Inspired by what he’d seen, Harrison flew back to the States and using all his previous connections he threw huge fundraising events, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single day. To date, they’ve implemented over 64,000 clean water projects in 29 different countries, creating access to clean water to over 12.5 million people.
Why do I think this should be the one book you read this year? Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all made sacrifices, some easier than others. I, no doubt like many others, have had lots of stroppy moments that mostly ended up with myself crying and shouting, “IT’S SO UNFAIR!”. And while that may be true, I’ve also had moments that have made me appreciate what I have, and realise what I take for granted: things like clean drinking water.
It’s always important to remind ourselves of what we have, particularly so in times like these. That’s why Thirst is a great read. It’s uplifting, it’s written honestly; Harrison doesn’t shy from failure, and writes so openly about how sometimes, when things don’t go your way, it does feel like a kick to the stomach, but these failures are all part of our journey towards achieving something bigger.
To find out more about Charity: Water, go to https://www.charitywater.org/uk
Image: Scott Harrison via Flickr
Image shows clean water being collected at a well