How to be eth­i­cal

Mer­chant banker turned so­cial ac­tivist Michael Nor­ton is an ex­pert on eth­i­cal liv­ing. Here he sug­gests sim­ple ways we can all change the world

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

WE LIVE i n a world full of prob­lems. Global poverty and the in­creas­ing in­equal­ity be­tween rich and poor, life-threat­en­ing dis­eases such as Aids, cor­rup­tion caus­ing the wealth of many poorer coun­tries to be spir­ited away, con­flict, global warm­ing, en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, pol­lu­tion… the list seems end­less.

ButwhenIa­masked­whatthe­world’s big­gest prob­lem is, I al­ways re­ply that it is ap­a­thy. Things will change only if some­one some­where takes ac­tion. And by do­ing some­thing, we are also en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to fol­low our lead and putting pres­sure on politi­cians.

Tak­ing the first step is cru­cial. Once you get go­ing, you will learn from ex­pe­ri­ence and gain con­fi­dence from your suc­cesses. I par­tic­u­larly like the story of Cana­dian Ryan Hrel­jac. When he was six, his teacher told his class that there were many peo­ple in Africa who did not have ac­cess to clean drink­ing wa­ter, and who were con­stantly sick and even dy­ing as a re­sult. Ryan could not un­der­stand how some peo­ple could be with­out wa­ter, when for him it was a sim­ple mat­ter of turn­ing on a tap. He learned, how­ever, that a well could be built where wa­ter was des­per­ately needed for just $70.

When Ryan got home, he asked his par­ents for $70. Not sur­pris­ingly, they re­fused. But they did agree to help him find ways of rais­ing the money. By do­ing chores at home and for his neigh­bours over the next four months, Ryan raised the $70. He took it to WaterCan, the Cana­dian equiv­a­lent of WaterAid. He even brought an ex­tra $5 to buy lunches for the well-dig­gers.

The peo­ple at WaterCan were im- pressed by Ryan’s en­thu­si­asm. But they had to tell him that it ac­tu­ally cost $2,000 to build a well.“No prob­lem,” Ryan replied. “I’ll, just do more chores.”

News of Ryan spread through the com­mu­nity and peo­ple started to send in money. Be­fore long, Ryan had raised enough to build his first well. Six months later, in Jan­uary 1999, Cana­dian Physi­cians for Aid and Re­lief drilled “Ryan’s Well” be­side the An­golo Pri­mary School in north­ern Uganda. The Ryan’s Well Foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished in 2001. As the end of 2007 ap­proaches, the now 16-year-old has raised over $1.8 mil­lion and com­pleted 319 wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion projects in 12 coun­tries.

So like Ryan, start by do­ing some small things in your ev­ery­day life. When th­ese be­gin to have an im­pact, then you can go on to do big­ger things.


A child drinks from a wa­ter pump near the Lig­wangwa vil­lage in Malawi, the sort of fa­cil­ity which can be life-chang­ing in some com­mu­ni­ties

Ryan Hrel­jac, who has raised $1.8 mil­lion

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