The day it becomes okay to care.
Reuben Harcourt is a 24 year old human from the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand. After travelling to Nepal in 2015, he now works as Head of Digital for One Percent Collective in Wellington. He's a self described professional amateur living up in the clouds of perpetual optimism, a chef, and a doer.
"I found myself in Nepal.
I went alone, with the hope that I might find something to click with. After studying philosophy at university I'd learned to really, really hate most of philosophy, and I thought travelling would be a way to challenge myself, to find something different. So I went to a children's home in Badikhel, Nepal.
I was there when the earthquakes hit. The scariest part was when the rubble came falling down between me and the main building. It was like rain. Through it were all of the kids I was looking after. They were huddling inside, waiting for me to tell them if they should run or if they should stay. The main building was brick, rickety and about four storeys high.
I froze for about two seconds before I told them to stay. I think that was the moment for the first time in my life that it hit me; I’m not the kid here anymore. I'm an adult. And this building might come down. "
Reuben's working now for One Percent Collective as Head of Digital. You wouldn't know he's an earthquake survivor. How could you? He runs ads, writes stories, works with the board and curates content day to day. Leader of the everyday digital works.
One Percent Collective are trying to get more New Zealanders to support their causes they care about. Their premise for existing is that if everyone gave 1% of their income, then charities would be able to spend less time fundraising and more time getting on with what they said they'd do in the first place.
Reuben knew he cared about the world long before Nepal. The only problem then was that he didn't know what he could do about it, and eventually, though young and passionate, it made him disillusioned and bitter with the world.
He laughs when likening his attitude before Nepal to 'drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die', sighing with what he knows now. Some call it becoming jaded, some cynical, some say it's a realistic point of view to hold. But for Reuben, it all switched gears in Nepal. It switched as he realised he'd (sort of accidentally) crowdfunded $80,000 worth of aid supplies after the earthquakes, that he would then go on to deliver out to 8 rural villages in the following three weeks.
"Travelling after the quakes, I heard horror stories. Every village had its own. There was one about a priest who told a group of children to stay inside a Church because God would save them. Then the building came down and everyone but the priest was crushed. Even the normal stories were terrible. So many buildings and lives had been ruined in the quakes. Just everything you can think of - destroyed.
The crowdfunding started with an idea to fundraise five hundred or a thousand dollars to buy a tent, or some rice for the locals in my village, which was in the middle of nowhere. Immediately after the quake it became clear that the rural villages were not going to get help from international aid organisations anytime soon.
Generally, it's because there's no infrastructure or systems, and no way to know who needs the most help. Some of these villages are 8 hours away in a truck. The aid organisations can trust that if they stick close to the densely populated areas their aid is going to be put to good use. In an emergency they’re not going to gamble on 8 hours just to find out they have too much aid or that the village is fine. It makes sense from a utilitarian point of view, not to travel out. It’s just a hard thing to swallow when you’re living in it and you need everything.
In the end we had $80,000 in funding to get as far out as we could get with aid, working in the regions of Lalitpur, Sindhupalchok and Rasawa. We delivered over 23 tonnes of food to about 8 villages all up within an 8 hour radius of Kathmandu within three weeks after the quake. After, I connected with an organisation to work there long term, but I felt emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. The idea of going off on my little first world trip after Nepal to sit on a beach somewhere in Southeast Asia and drink a beer – that didn’t seem like me. I wasn’t the same person anymore. So I came home"
Reuben came home. He met Pat, joined up with One Percent Collective, and spends his days driven now by knowing that so many others feel as helpless as he used to feel before Nepal. That almost any one of the 8 thousand people that backed his campaign would gladly have taken his place. People want to do something - it's just a case for many of knowing how. Having seen how easy it is to get detached from a cause, when what you really want to do is care and make change, he helps people realise that they can be part of something bigger than them, even with just $2 a month. It's all about being included.
"One Percent means they can be a part of the solution, and not just yell at the problem. I've found it’s so much easier to criticise than it is to look for ways to help. And it’s so easy to feel helpless. But when you put yourself behind something that you truly care about, it’s such a relief. And when you make yourself vulnerable for what you care about, you start to notice the others doing it too, and see you’re not alone"
It's so important to know that; there's a way to do something for the world and it can be easy, enjoyable, and impactful. One Percent is proving that. "If everyone gave 1% - it’s nothing. You can get on with your life and you don’t even notice it going." But it means the charities have regular funding. They don't have to sell their souls fundraising, and it means the good work can start getting done.
Ironically, the place it's easiest for us all to be impactful is one of the toughest for Reuben to gain traction on. Social media is a socially risky game, and when it comes to supporting the causes we do care about – that clean cut image reflects back on us once we share the message for the causes we support. And sometimes we don't want to look pretentious – like 'hipsters' - or as though we're holding ourselves to a different moral standard to our friends. Sometimes it's just more comfortable to just sit quiet.
"It's so hard – people had to believe in what I was doing to share my story in Nepal – but it doesn’t happen very often. Most of the time social media is just used for people being cynical, or sharing the awful stuff, or having no opinion at all – which is almost worse."
In his eyes, the world changes once more people start having the courage to care. That's the secret really – where the change happens. It starts with more people caring actively, with more people switching gears to find ways to do something when they're affronted by something they don't like in the world, and with more ways to be a part of something. That's what Reuben is trying to do with Pat at One Percent, and for him it all started with Nepal. With one single event that could never have been planned for.
"My main drive now personally is that I’m comfortable enough to give a shit, and I want to empower other people to tap into what they give a shit about too. I think everyone cares about things. I know they do. And I want them to do something about it.”
So without relying on a natural disaster to shake the disillusionment out of many, Reuben's advice for the world is to find the smallest ways possible to get amongst what you care about. Whether it’s the arts, development, sport, communications, injustice, climate or youth: do your bit by getting involved in something. Just choose to care with a purpose.
"It's a tipping point waiting to arrive, a day where it becomes the norm as a generation to stand up for what you care about and be vulnerable. It starts with leaders. And then we reach the tipping point. Then it becomes okay to care."
1. Found an urgent need in the world - Reuben had little choice when the earthquake hit but to wait for the ground to stop shaking. But after the quake, he could have left and carried on with his travels. Instead, he put his voice up on social media and asked for help. What started then was a snowball effect, a series of events that has led to Reuben now working for charities, and helping others to use their voices to care too.
2. Found something to be a part of - Reuben was drawn to One Percent Collective because Pat, the founder, spoke in a way that was true to his experiences in Nepal. After claiming Pat as a mentor ("I told him, 'you have no choice man. Teach me everything I need to know to be successful in this industry"), Reuben joined One Percent because of how easy they make it for other people to start to be a part of something too.
3. Uses his voice to tell the stories of others - Reuben's approach is just like talking to a friend at One Percent Collective. Their emails are funny, their branding is genuine (“for people who give a shit”), and their message is uncomplicated. It's about telling a story in a human way. It makes it easier for them to feel a part of it all.
4. Lead to the tipping point - "It's this feeling I have, like it's a tipping point waiting to arrive, a day where it becomes the norm as a generation to talk about what you care about". This is the cultural shift, the step change that makes the most sense to Reuben after his experiences with social media in Nepal and with One Percent Collective. It starts with leaders, and it's a success the day it becomes okay to care.
Find out how you can back One Percent Collective here. Just one percent of your income could make all the difference. Be a superhero at onepercentcollective.org