Rachel Beckwith showed a lot of heart ahead of her ninth birthday, giving up her birthday presents to instead fundraise for clean water projects in the third world. The American girl wanted to make a small difference by providing 15 people with access to clean drinking water, so she asked family and friends to donate US$9 – her age in dollars – to help raise US$300.
Rachel posted the following message on her charity : water fundraising page:
“On June 12th 2011, I’m turning 9. I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before. I’m asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations. Even better, every dollar is “proved” when the projects are complete, and photos and GPS coordinates are posted using Google Earth. My goal is to raise $300 by my birthday, June 12, 2011. Please consider helping me.
Thank you so much!!!”
Her generous act has become a truly inspirational story, yet it’s an equally heartbreaking tale. Six weeks after she raised US$220 to help those in need, Rachel was critically injured when two trucks collided on an interstate highway, causing a 14 car pileup which included the Lexus of Rachel’s mother, Samantha Paul.
While her two-year-old sister escaped with minor injuries, Rachel had suffered severe head and spinal injuries. Three days after the accident, on July 23, Rachel’s parents made the most difficult decision any parent could ever face – to switch off her life support. By the time Rachel passed away, her local church had reopened the fundraising page on behalf of the family and the push had begun to ensure Rachel’s dream of hydrating the third world remained her lasting legacy.
Family were joined by friends and church acquaintances in promoting the page via social networks. The story touched those in her local community and donations began pouring in. As Rachel’s fundraising page reached US$5,000, the story grew beyond social media into mainstream print and television media.
Thousands of people were moved to act by Rachel’s tragic story of generosity and by Monday, July 25, they had donated US$140,000 to ensure her dream would become a reality. On that same day, while coming to terms with the loss of her daughter, Samantha updated the fundraising page with this emotive message of gratitude:
“I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughters dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope. Thank you for your generosity!
I know Rachel is smiling!”
But the generosity, like the water wells it will fund, was only just beginning to flow as the story reached the world’s media. By week’s end, Rachel’s story had inspired 15,000 people to donate more than US$500,000, a number which had blossomed to US$860,000 thanks to donations from over 23,000 people around the world at the time of writing.
Already, Rachel has become the most successful fundraiser in the history of charity : water, with 100% of the funds raised destined to provide 43,000 people with clean drinking water. With 51 days of fundraising left, Rachel’s appeal could well break the US$1 million mark.
Nothing makes the loss of a sweet young soul any less tragic. Yet, in her nine short years, Rachel has touched thousands of lives around the world with her inspiring act of generosity and is set to make a real difference to the lives of thousands more.
Rachel’s message of hope is eternal. Pax aeterna, Rachel.