Harrison was born an only child in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Joan Harrison. His family relocated and he was raised in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. When Harrison was four years old, his mother was exposed to carbon monoxide from a cracked furnace installed in their new energy efficient home. His mother's immune system was destroyed and she became an invalid. As a result, Harrison grew up taking care of his mother and the household. He credits his family's deep Christian faith for giving them hope that one day his mother would be healed.
At age 18, Harrison left home for New York City and enrolled at New York University (NYU). He graduated from NYU with a bachelor's degree in communications in 1998. Harrison admits he was not a diligent student, and began working as a nightclub and party promoter in Manhattan. He spent the next 10 years throwing lavish parties for the likes of MTV, VH1, Bacardi and Elle. Harrison describes this as a time when he was "chasing after models," mingling with the New York City elite and indulging in illicit drugs including cocaine and ecstasy.
When he was 28, Harrison had a "crisis of conscience" during a vacation in Uruguay. Harrison had an epiphany about his job and life: "I was selling selfishness and decadence." He recalled feeling like "the most selfish, sycophantic and miserable human being" and "the worst person I knew."
In August 2004, Harrison quit his job and volunteered as a photojournalist for the Christian charity Mercy Ships, which operates a fleet of hospital ships offering free healthcare. He served aboard the Mercy Ship Anastasis in West Africa, taking over 60,000 photos in 13 months. While on his first mission trip with Mercy Ships, Harrison received word that his mother was "miraculously healed" of her illness.
Returning home from Africa in the fall of 2006, he started charity: water, which in just more than 6 years has raised over $95 million, and funded 8,000+ water projects in 20 countries that provide acces to clean drinking water for 3.2 million people.
- 12/21/11 -techcrunch.com
- 12/20/11 -techcrunch.com
- 04/25/11 -techcrunch.com
- 04/22/11 -techcrunch.com