- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ali Eastburn’s new wedding ring is from Target.

A pastor’s wife from Yorba Linda, Calif., Mrs. Eastburn, 43, sold her original 1.5 carat solitaire round-cut diamond wedding ring so she could help build clean water wells in the needy nations of West Africa.

“We believe what the Bible says that it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” Mrs. Eastburn said as she referred to Acts 20:35. “We take Scriptures like that and it’s hard to justify not doing something and hard not to give to the poor and needy. I believe it’s our responsibility to help those in need.”

When Mrs. Eastburn attended a women’s retreat in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., in 2006, she became inspired by a speaker who asked the attendees about how they can make a change in the world. That question stayed with Mrs. Eastburn that night.

“I had a dream about ‘Schindler’s List.’ [In the movie], when the war was declared over, they all came up to thank him,” Mrs. Eastburn said, referring to Oskar Schindler who protected hundreds of Jews from death. “And it was one of those epiphanies that the most valuable things that I had was my diamond ring.”

So in 2007, Mrs. Eastburn founded With This Ring, a nonprofit that auctions off wedding rings and uses the proceeds to fund construction of water wells in African nations. So far, more than 200 women from around the world have donated their wedding rings, raising nearly $300,000 for Mrs. Eastburn’s group. The rings are auctioned off at BiddingforGood.com.

“The focus of our work is equipping people to grow in the cause of radical giving,” Mrs. Eastburn said. “As we train up our champions, one of the most tangible results are the wells that we dig in Africa. These wells become one of the main physical representations of our champion’s generosity, but not the only or primary representation of our champion’s growth in the cause. The real key to our success, though, is not measured by dollars and cents, rather it is measured by lives that have been transformed through radical giving.”

When people’s lives change, Mrs. Eastburn said they stop serving only themselves and start serving others and their needs. That is why she encourages women and men to sell their luxury items and use that money to bring clean drinking water to African nations and the Caribbean. Her nonprofit partners with Living Water International, an organization that seeks to help communities in dire need of potable water.

Africa is full of those communities. In most areas, wells typically cost $8,500 to $10,000 each, depending on the depth of the drill. The wells are dug by local African workers hired by Living Water International.

Living Water International links poverty in Africa to the lack of clean water. Hours are spent by citizens collecting water to satisfy a basic need, instead of working toward developing their country. Women commonly walk long distances to find water. If those sources are dry, they must beg.

Children also could get sent to gather water, and as a result, miss school. They can get very sick from drinking dirty water.

An estimated 5,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from waterborne diseases, according to statistics provided on Living Water International’s website. In total, up to 2.2 million deaths — adults and children — each year are caused by filthy water.

With This Ring’s goal is to establish 20 wells, mostly in Yendi, in the northeastern part of Ghana. The group so far has funded 10 wells — seven in Ghana, one in Haiti and two in Sierra Leone.

Mrs. Eastburn is expecting another two to open in Ghana by May.

Jana Trabert, a full-time mom from Laguna Niguel, Calif., heard about With This Ring from a sister-in-law and decided, with her family’s support, to give up her 2-carat princess-cut diamond ring.

“I realized that we have so much and there are others that don’t even have clean water to drink,” she said. “That’s always in the back of my mind. It really made me step back and rethink my lifestyle.”

Mrs. Trabert’s sister-in-law, Maria Lee of Aliso Viejo, Calif., is the secretary for With This Ring. She had a white gold ¾-carat ring she could not give up at first. “For me it wasn’t the value of the ring, it was hard to give up something so sentimental,” she said.

Soon, she developed a rash on her finger, so she took off the ring. Then, she misplaced the ring while attending a marriage retreat with her husband, Hanju. She then promised God that if she found it, she would give it away. She later found the ring in her pants pocket.

She now wears a simple wedding band. After she tells her story, she said she many times is criticized by other women who say that she gave away the symbol of her marriage.

“The fact that I gave up my wedding ring has nothing to do with my marriage. It strengthened my marriage,” Mrs. Lee said. “They will know that I helped make a difference on the planet that needed it.”

She and her family are “trying to live below our means so we can give above our means,” she said. “We don’t give more, we just live less. We’re more conscious of and decide to intentionally give to With This Ring.”

With This Ring also accepts donations from men.

When Len Root of Dallas heard Mrs. Eastburn speak at a conference, he decided to donate his Tag Heuer watch, which sold for $400 at auction.

“It was the perfect opportunity,” Mr. Root said. “I was already familiar with the [drinking] water shortage in Africa and it touched my heart. I didn’t have a wedding ring and said ‘Since you’re doing the jewelry thing, I have a diving watch.’ Somebody could actually use it.”

Mr. Root also has donated aviation art to the nonprofit. He said With This Ring is a “perfect way for people who may not have the extra funds in their bank account but still get involved by giving up something that they don’t use.

“I think it’s awesome when these people give up sentimental things,” he said.

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