Stephanie Weaver (Changent/Fundraiser)

Stephanie WeaverGrowing up, I knew I wanted to work in the "non-profit" world, because I wanted to help people, but I wasn't quite sure who I would end up helping or how I'd help them.  While studying at Georgetown University I became aware of the poverty and suffering that exists on a global level.

Through coursework, internships and other activities I began to realize that there are various degrees of suffering in the world, and unfortunately, some have to endure circumstances I could never even imagine.

Towards the end of college I realized I wanted to spend time volunteering overseas in a developing country, living in solidarity with and serving the needs of those less fortunate than myself.

My plans of volunteering abroad for a year or two were thwarted though, when, at the age of 20, my foot was run over by a car in Italy. My foot refused to heal properly, and as a result I have since been confined to the US, and much of the time, to my bed.

I was determined to find a way to do my part in helping those in need, even if it were from afar.  Starting a non-profit organization that could truly help people had always been a dream of mine, and I began to ponder this possibility during the end of my senior year of college.  Around graduation time, I was wondering if I was crazy for wanting to start an international non-profit organization at the ripe old age of 22.  This question was answered by my graduation speaker and Teach For America Founder, Wendy Kopp.

She explained to my graduating class that our world has many problems that need to be addressed, and if we think we can help assuage one of the issues our world faces, we should do something about it - today.  She encouraged us not to wait to tackle problems or embark upon endeavors at a young age for three reasons 1.) with youth comes idealism 2.) with youth comes boundless energy and 3.) things take time to develop, so we should get started early.

Wendy's words lingered in my mind all summer long and come October when the idea for my organization, A Drink for Tomorrow, popped into my head, I couldn't help but turn to her words for encouragement and inspiration.  After reading an article and viewing a photo documentary on about the global water crisis, I knew I had found my cause.

The fact that so many live luxurious lives, while one in eight individuals do not have their most basic human right met (a clean glass of water) seemed so unjust that I couldn't hold myself back from taking action.  The facts behind the crisis are event more jaw-dropping - a child dies every 20 seconds from a water borne illness.  Within a few months, an idea I had during college to hold a wine tasting fundraiser and donate the proceeds to a clean water project and hence "Turn Wine into Water", turned into A Drink for Tomorrow.

A Drink for Tomorrow raises money and awareness to provide affordable and sustainable clean water to impoverished communities.  ADFT uses drinks and the beverage industry to raise awareness of the lack of access to clean, safe drinking water in the developing world. Through partnerships and events with beverage businesses and the general public, ADFT creatively raises funds for clean water projects to benefit those among the 884 million people who lack clean water.

Specifically, ADFT uses cause marketing partnerships (pairing a product or service with a cause in a way that mutually benefits the business and charity), and community events so the drinks Americans consume today can help to provide clean water for someone in a developing country tomorrow. We also launch campaigns in specific niches of the beverage industry that allow us to engage businesses and consumers in the cause, like our first campaign, "Turn Wine into Water" which partners with wine stores, restaurants and wineries. By pairing the global water crisis with a businesses product or service, the businesses gains from increased sales and great PR, while also contributing to this worthy cause.  

The global water crisis is a grave and urgent situation, but it can be solved. Technology exists to provide clean water to every person on earth, it's just about channeling the money into the right places.

As a small, 100% volunteer-run non-profit organization, started by a 22 year-old with no capital in the worst recession our country has seen in a while, we quickly learned to accept that things take time and to be happy with small gains.  We accomplished a lot behind the scenes in our first year (things like incorporating, filing for charitable registration, tax-exempt status, and a logo trademark, creating the website, promotional materials, slowly growing our base of supporters, holding events, creating business partnerships etc) - but it was not until the one-year anniversary of our incorporation that we had accumulated enough funds to cut a check for our very first water project: a dugwell in West Bengal, India (pictured above) that now brings 140 people arsenic-free water.

I'm thrilled to say that we've seen a significant amount of growth from our first to our second year.  Each fundraiser has been more successful (and less stressful) then the last, we've received some really great support from businesses such as Cork Restaurant, Wachovia Bank, Beneficial Bank and Triangle Tube - and most importantly, by the end of year two, we will have funded at least five projects in 2010, compared to the one project we funded in 2009.  This year, we've already funded projects in Haiti, Botswana, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, and very soon will be funding a project in Guatemala.

Our team of volunteers is growing rapidly, as are the number and type of projects we're planning for 2011.  This momentum has been so invigorating that I've decided I can no longer work a full-time job and manage the organization. It is time I devote even more of myself, my time and my resources to bringing A Drink for Tomorrow, giving everything I possibly can to making the organization all that it can be.

For this reason, in October of 2010, I stopped working the full-time job I'd held since graduating college and started a local part-time position with mostly weekend hours, which has freed up a lot business hours during which I can run A Drink for Tomorrow.

I hope you stay tuned in early 2011 as we unfold our exciting new campaign, "Raise a Drink for Tomorrow", which aims to unite Philadelphia breweries, bars, restaurants, businesses, graduate school programs and social groups for a two-week long campaign to raise as much money as possible for water projects through the sale and responsible consumption of craft beer.

Related links:
Stephanie Weaver on Changents