For her birthday this year, sophomore Natalie Kasling raised more than $5,000 to help build a well in Rwanda through an organization called Charity Water.
During the summer, Kasling traveled to Ethiopia to assist with clean water projects. She said many of the villagers were aware the water they drank might kill them, but they said they would rather drink it than die of dehydration.
Kasling said she would never forget the villagers' desperation, and wanted to find a way to help. She met with the CEO of Charity Water, Scott Harrison, in New York and found out how she could be involved: Harrison asked Kasling to give up her birthday to Charity Water.
"For my birthday I didn't want presents, I didn't want to go to nice dinners, I didn't want anything special. I just asked for twenty dollars," Kasling said.
Charity Water has a web campaign that asks people to "pledge" their birthdays in order to collect donations to build water wells, instead of receiving personal gifts.
"We're just thinking everyone has a birthday. Everyone can make an impact on the water crisis," Stacie Zellmer, spokesperson for Charity Water, said.
Kasling said she used social media to gather donations with great success. Through Facebook and Twitter, Kasling spread the word about her birthday campaign. She received donations from complete strangers and raised $1,000 in a single day.
Kasling's act of service affected more than just the people of Rwanda.
"It was so humbling to see a 19-year-old girl with such a huge heart throw everything she had emotionally and monetarily into this well and into this organization," Larissa Bogle, sophomore fashion merchandising and political science major and close friend, said.
Kasling’s birthday may be over, but her efforts have only just begun.
"I will keep going until it stops and I will keep going until it is recognized. I'll do whatever I can.” she said.
The well is scheduled to be completed in December of 2013. Kasling, her mother and a few friends will travel to Rwanda to witness the opening.