the disconnect

You could have heard a pin drop… and most DEFINITELY my sniffling.

Silence filled the room as we intently listened to Scott Harrison share the story of how Charity Water came to be. 125 entrepreneurs from all over the world came together in Bend, Oregon at StartUpCamp Summit  to network, learn, and grow. We attended not only as business people, but as humans with families, friends, and faith to nurture while chasing our dreams. In just a few days, it was evident this group of people were some of the most dynamic, creative, and passionate individuals from around the globe, eager to use their skills to solve problems in our world. I was honored to be among them, and so grateful for the opportunity to make such valuable connections.

As Scott shared, he told us the story of a 13-year-old girl from Tigray, Ethiopia.

Letikiros Hailu was clever, unique, beautiful and a visionary. She had dreams greater than her years of a bright future for her community. Letikiros’ family depended on her to walk for water every day in order to survive. Yes, her family were apart of the 663 MILLION people who do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Tying her clay pot to her back, she would make the treacherous trek over rocky-ravines, which claimed the lives of many who lost their footing. Once at the water source, she would wait in line up to 8 hours to fill her pot. The water trickled out of a rock face, collecting in a little puddle. Each woman filled her bucket cup by cup as the precious life-source slowly seeps out.

On May 19, 2000 during the hottest, driest month in Tigray, Letikiros began her journey to the water source before dawn. She waited in line all day for her turn to fill her pot, then strapping the 40 lb clay pot to her back she began her journey home. At some point on her dangerous journey, Letikiros slipped and fell, smashing her clay pot into pieces. All of the water evaporated into the dust…

Despair took over. Knowing that her family’s well-being depended upon this water, Letikiros must have felt so helpless… hopeless… alone.

In this moment, the discouragement overcame her. The same rope that robbed her family of water that day, robbed them of Letikiros… Finding a tree nearby, she tossed the rope over a branch, secured it around her neck, and jumped.


Tears pouring from my eyes, snot running from my nose, I wept for this precious girl as quietly as possible. The room was so silent, I tried not to “sniff”, hoping I wouldn’t give myself away. I was sure people were wondering, who’s that super-emotional chick on the left side of the room? Completely unprepared for such a tragically heartbreaking story, I used my sweater as a tissue (ew!) so as not to draw attention to myself even further. I may have heard a few other sniffles, but the majority of the room stared silently at Scott as he continued on with his talk.

I thought to myself, “Jeez Brittany, why do you have to be so emotional?!” I was slightly embarrassed and quite frankly annoyed at myself that I was unable to rein in my emotions.

Scott went on to share about the idea of donating birthday celebrations to raise money for Charity Water. A young girl out of Seattle, Washington donated her birthday, hoping to raise $300. Scott showed photos of the young, blond-haired philanthropist, not even 10-years-old. What a beautiful heart this girl had. Tragically, soon after her birthday, she was killed in a car accident. Her family re-opened her fundraiser in honor of her dream to help a family across the world access clean water.

As you can probably guess, the floodgates opened again, tears rolling down my face, and I officially have to wash this sweater… but this time I was not alone. The entire room was filled with sniffles and the wiping-of-tears.

Shocked, I tried to make sense of what was happening. So… maybe I’m not overly emotional… EVERYONE is crying about this young girl being killed in a car crash…

but why wasn’t the whole room crying for Letikiros? 

Remember, these are some of the most caring people, devoting their careers to making the world a better place. These are loving, compassionate individuals – the ones who care to make a difference.

Dumbfounded, I shared the experience with a few close friends individually. Each one said the same thing in the same tone: “Ohh wow; they couldn’t relate to the girl in Africa.”

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a over a week because I don’t really have a complete understanding or solution. What finally pushed me to share this story is what is happening right now in the United States.

We have had shooting after shooting… most recently being non-African American police officers fatally shooting (murdering) African American men. I do not blame guns for these murders. There is a subconscious disconnect between people in our community, our country, and our world. Even the most loving pro-social justice people have this subconscious disconnect. As long as we perceive the world as having “the other”, we will not know peace.

I would love this post to start a conversation about how we can proactively remove the gap between people groups. We all know there are biases, discrimination and hatred that keep people from one another. I would dare anyone with a set bias to find a way to learn about that people group, spend time with them, and seek to see the world through their eyes. Arguably, these people with a set distaste are not the majority.

What really needs attention is those who have no known biases, the people who believe they are rooted in love, equality, and justice. We need to shine a light on THOSE people… because they are the majority, and they likely have no idea how disconnected they truly are. 

Some ideas I came up with…

  • Volunteer at a school/youth center/church/homeless shelter that is NOT in your part of town. Go to the part of town that is the LEAST like yours and commit a few hours each week there. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, black, white, yellow or purple – we all have the same 24-hours in a day. Go learn something.
  • Take a humanitarian trip to a developing nation.
  • Facilitate and participate in a fundraiser for a cause that moves/inspires you. Now facilitate and participate in a fundraiser that doesn’t immediately invoke emotions from you… apply yourself in the same manner as you did the first project. Learn as much as you can about the cause and interview people who are affected by the project/need.
  • Go to a gathering/service of a religion that is different than yours. Go with an open mind and loving heart. Seek to understand before being understood.

What other ideas do you have to break down the barriers that we don’t even realize exist? Thank you for being apart of the conversation. I am just one voice. Let’s grow this to a million voices, brainstorming for humanity’s connection.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read Letikiros’ entire story here.

100% of donations go directly to actual water projects through Charity Water! Donate here.


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