Rachel Beckwith wanted to raise $300 by her ninth birthday on June 12, 2011 for a New York-based non-profit organization charity:water, involved in projects to bring clean drinking water to people in impoverished developing countries.
MSNBC reports that Rachel was inspired to raise $300 for charity:water after she heard the founder and CEO of the organization Scott Harrison, speak at her EastLake Community Church in Bothell, Washington. Rachel decided to ask people to donate to the charity instead of gifts for her birthday.
On her mycharitywater.org webpage, Rachel explained why she wanted to raise $300: "On June 12th 2011, I'm turning nine. I found out that millions of people don't live to see their fifth birthday. 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."
A horrific car accidentThe Huffington Post reports she fell short of her goal at the time she turned nine by $80. According to MSNBC, a few weeks after her ninth birthday on July 20, 2011, Rachel was in a car with her mother and younger sister on Interstate 90 when a horrific accident, involving a semi-trailer and a logging truck that sent logs spilling onto the highway, left her critically injured. She was taken to a Seattle hospital where she died after she was taken off life support on July 23, 2011.
According to the Daily Mail, that was not to be the end of Rachel's vision. Her story was taken up by the local media, major news news outlets and social media. In a few weeks, pledges for the Rachel's Wish campaign snowballed to $1.2 million.
The money is now being used in projects to bring clean drinking water to 60,000 people in Ethiopia. According to MSNBC, Ethiopia is a landlocked country of nearly 85 million people in the Horn of Africa. The country has suffered drought and famine and is one of the poorest countries in the world with only about a quarter of the population having access to clean and safe drinking water.
Rachel's lasting legacy
Rachel's mother Samanta Paul, her parents, her church pastor Ryan Meek, Harrison and other charity: water officials left for the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on Thursday night for a week-long visit to villages where drinking water wells are being built.
According Meeks, "We're going to actually see the work done. It's one thing to have your heartstrings pulled on and give money to something, but it's another thing to actually see the work proven.This went somewhere.This changed actual lives and here they are."
Paul said in a phone interview Thursday: “The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the actual wells where the people, because of Rachel, are going to be able to have clean water... seeing other 9-year-old children and their moms knowing that they're going to have a 10th, 11th and 12th birthday and so on because of Rachel’s heart.”
According to Scottt Harrsion, “Rachel’s lasting legacy will be seen in the lives and smiles of thousands of children like her that will now have access to life’s most basic need -- clean and safe drinking water."
Paul said that a year after her daughter died, she is still surprised at how her daughter has touched the hearts of so many strangers. She said: "A lot of kids look forward to birthdays and Christmas. She realized she didn't need anything for her birthday, she had enough. It's amazing that a 9-year-old could grasp that concept.".