An Open (Cover) Letter to Charity: Water

Creative Millenial Idealist Seeks Fulfilling Work, Appreciates Consideration


Let me tell you a story.

The moment you see an elderly woman pour a gallon of muddy water into a small plastic bin in which to bathe her grandchildren and do laundry, that moment changes you. The moment you realized she carried that water for five miles, three hours and 47 back aches and two hyena encounters just to get home, that moment changes you. When that one gallon represents a high percentage of the water she has to use for the entire week, and you witness the meticulous way she washes her hands without spilling a drop to the ground, that moment, that tiny fraction of time when the struggle of her life is so clearly framed, it changes you. It changed me.

Ethiopian woman pouring water from Jerry Can | Joseph Peterson

Charity: water sometimes feels like a destiny rather than a job. From the first encounter where, as a college student in Utah, I stumbled upon a playful, full-of-heart exhibit for charity: water during the 2009 Sundance Film Festival I knew immediately, perhaps instinctively, that this organization was a game-changer. I had to learn more, so I put on the wrist band and went to the internet.

In those early days of social media, I quickly became one of the top advocates for charity: water on Facebook. Groups and other organizations looked different back then on the popular social website. It was the wild west of online organizing for social good. Suddenly I found myself on several top advocate lists for fundraising, galvanizing support and building the numbers of the organization that led it to become the social media behemoth it is today. I say this to brag, of course. I mean, I was proud of my part in it.


A Dream Deferred

As charity: water grew, I kept a careful eye, but my involvement became distant. But Scott Harrison and his team of misfit idealists would show up at unexpected moments when I was involved in shaping and developing other young charitable and non-profit organizations. I freely borrowed inspiration and branding ideas from charity: water in presenting other social movements. It became a bar to reach, and an ideal to compare progress against.

Yellow Jerry Cans in a country farm, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia | Joseph Peterson

Still, that yellow Jerry Can haunted my dreams. My passion for the work that charity: water does led me to Ethiopia where I spent time in villages building wells for farmers, and discovering the gap of communication between on-the-ground action and donor accountability. Filling this gap remains the most impressive element of charity: water to date.

Then, thanks to a friend and fellow idealist, I found my way to Portland and the World Domination Summit, largely because of Scott Harrison and charity: water. Which I wrote about elsewhere on this site.

Honestly, I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t involved in observing, cheering, creating or working for some social innovation. Part of my DNA, it would seem, includes a trait of wanting to make the world a better place. From my early exposure as a young man living in the Netherlands and seeing firsthand the individual stories of a global refugee crisis, to involvement in nearly every activist school group in college.

I planned fundraisers, wrote articles, staged events and documented results. I felt that not only had I found purpose and a sphere in which to apply the skills I was learning as a student, but I also found a culture that was accepting, passionate, and hard-working toward a vision of life that was bigger than any one individual. Since college and throughout my career I’ve only continued that trajectory, and sought to always be engaged with work that mattered, helping those initiatives and organizations that are innovating for the worlds biggest problems, and changing the world for the better.


Connecting the Dots

I consider myself an opportunist looking to connect those compassionate activists who are seeking to achieve the same things I value and foster collaboration amongst them. I have started my own organizations and social groups, and spent my career thus far being on founding teams of other startups. At my core I would label myself as a connector, bridging together ideas, people and initiatives to maximize social change and achieve community-driven impact. I recently took the StrengthsTest to see this confirmed, with my highest strengths being an Includer, a Learner, a Developer, Belief and Communication.

A village mother, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia | Joseph Peterson

While I was strolling down a bustling street of a small city in Ethiopia, I remember seeing dozens of faded signs for NGOs, charities and community organizations that have been involved in improving that city. I could not imagine what had been accomplished. I wondered at the level of competition instead of collaboration these organizations experienced. And I applied those observations to my vision of the future.


The Future of Idealism

I hope for a future where collectively the do-gooders and social entrepreneurs take a step back to see a broader picture with other actors in the same space. I hope there will be a spirit to unite together to achieve something greater than any solitary effort, no matter how great, and to take society’s pressing problems one at a time. And really, I mean truly make the kind of progress that is noticed, measured and maintained, and where the quality of life for all the earth’s children is enhanced.

Enjoying a communal meal | Joseph Peterson

I envision myself as someone who has stepped to the edge to grasp that vision, with the right skill-set to effectively share that vision, and a personality of someone who can attract others to join in the grand effort of humanity to lift our neighbor and rejoice in the beauty of living together.

I can write, I can turn a phrase, and I can tell a story. I often find myself weeping at the persuasive beauty of the written word. After all, water may be the most pressing issue, the most important, sustaining element of life, but our words are the only thing we have to tell that story.

I want to tell that story.

I’m Joe, a passionate, faith-led individual at your service. I happen to be the copywriter you’re looking for.


You can read some more of my writing at Huffington Post, but I’m particularly fond of this story about playing soccer with kids in Ethiopia.

More of my copywriting work is viewable at my online portfolio at Behance.

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