At age 18, he left his conservative Christian home in New Jersey to travel to New York, where he became a nightclub promoter. There, he led a life of excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, model girlfriends and Rolex watches.
Harrison – who is now 43 and the founder and CEO of charity: water, who raised more than $ 360 million for safe water projects – said it made him think of his legacy.
"If I continued in this way, there was a good chance that I would die before the age of 40. I mean, if I had just had a party like that, I would not be able to go back for another 12. My gravestone could even read: "It's a rat club that has lost a million people. "
It was then that he had an epiphany: And did he sell everything and start again?
Harrison decided to volunteer for a year and submitted applications to the Peace Corps, UNICEF, the American Red Cross, Oxfam International and other organizations. But he did not have the appropriate experience and was refused by all.
He paid $ 500 a month to join Mercy Ships, a non-profit organization that operates floating hospitals and provides health care and other services to communities in need.
Harrison joined Mercy Ships on a trip to war-torn Liberia and spent two years in West Africa as a photojournalist, documenting the work of doctors, surgeons and nurses in the West. 39, organization in the field.
"I went to the villages, I saw children drinking in swamps There is really no other way to say it: green, algae filled with algae, water Disgusting stagnant, and the children would leave their house with these buckets or jerrycans and I would watch them and watch the kids drink water that I would not let my dog drink, "recalls Harrison.
Meanwhile, Harrison met Dr. Gary Parker, a surgeon who explained to him how much drinking water could help the world. "He said …" The water makes more sick people on this planet than all the wars, all the violence combined … of course, you can help us finance the next ship of 50 or 60 million dollars, or you can give drinking water to everyone. & # 39; "
Parker inspired Harrison to form a charitable organization, Water, a non-profit organization that provides drinking water to millions of people in developing countries.
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Harrison launched charity: water in a discotheque on his 31st birthday.
"I've attracted my friends there with [an] Open Bar, and said, "On the way, you have to give $ 20, and we will build two water projects and I will show you the proof." And that was really the beginning. "
Since its launch in 2006, more than a million people have donated to a charity: the cause of water. The organization has funded more than 30,000 drinking water projects in 26 countries, giving nearly 10 million people access to safe water.
The organization allocates 100% of the public's donations directly to funding for drinking water projects, Harrison said.
"I thought that if we could promise that 100% of every donation would always go directly to helping people get clean water, that would eliminate the most common objection," he says.
Private financing and partnerships with businesses and foundations help pay for organizational operating costs such as salaries and office space.
One of the keys to charity: the success of water lies in its ability to tell its story via social media, explains Harrison. The non-profit organization uses crowdfunding to build and repair wells and disseminates images of the work it does in the villages on its website and on Facebook.
"It does not matter whether you're Republican or Democrat or Independent, or whether you're Jewish, Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Mormon, no matter what you might differ in religious or political terms," Harrison said. "People can get together and hear about clean water."
Harrison says that he wants to continue to develop the business. Last year, he launched The Spring, a subscription service for people wishing to make regular donations of $ 60 a month.
Harrison has also recently published a book titled "Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World". Looking at what he has accomplished so far, he acknowledges that his experience in promoting clubs has really helped him tell the story of charity: water today.
"In fact, it's like I'm inviting people to a party." I invite people, uh, to move on … There's no velvet rope. I had the doors open for everyone.But come to this party where you give generously of yourself and you see the impact of this gift, "he said.