The Bridge

She had no shoes, that was what shocked me the most. 

My few hours of being a tourist in Istanbul ended with a visit to the Galata tower to look out over the city at night, but that isn't the view I'll remember. It's this one, from a footbridge back over the river on the dark, rainy walk back to the hotel, about 10pm. 

It was cold and wet, but I stayed a long while taking pictures all the same. This was the very last night of my journey, and it wasn't just a starkly beautiful view of bright lights and dark waters: it was a moment to say goodbye to this part of my life, travelling across Europe by bike. This was the last time I would stop. When I finished, I would head straight back to the hotel, pack my things and sleep a few hours before the 5am taxi and the journey home. 

I looked up from my phone, and quite suddenly a young girl was there with me. 

I was taken quite by surprise. In the dark, with a hat and hood over my ears, I hadn't seen her coming at all. She was perhaps 12 years old, with messy, wet black hair, unprotected from the rain. She wore a winter coat, olive green and faded, but parts of it were soaked through and dirty as though she had been sat on wet ground, and it was open at the front despite the rain and cold, as though she didn't care, or there was no parent to tell her to zip it up.

She said something in turkish and made the universal sign of request for food: fingers pinched together, motioning into an open mouth. I was in luck: I had just been to a shop, and was carrying a bag of snacks for tomorrow's journey, so I reached in and pulled out what I was most sure she would like - a 100g square of milk chocolate.

She took it, looked at it for an instant, and then she was gone. She came and went before I could think, before I could say a word or offer anything more, walking quickly away across the bridge, the walk of someone much older. As she disappeared into the rain, I saw that she had no shoes, her feet bare on the wet walkway.

Where was she going? Where would she sleep? What would happen if there was broken glass on the ground that she missed in the dark? What sort of future lies in store for this person? I felt deeply sad; I think that almost anyone would feel this way. 

However, just feeling this does not help her. How can we act in a way that actually helps people in need, as much as possible? 

For me, moving funds to the very best charities in the world - those that actually, verifiably help others, and help them the most, for every penny they are given - seems to be the best answer. If you choose carefully, you can move mountains: astonishingly, the best charities can do a hundred times as much good as the alternatives.

Along with many thousands of others, I have committed to donate 10% of my lifetime income to these charities through Giving What We Can. By doing this, as an ordinary person, I have been able to save the lives of children who would otherwise have died of malaria or nutrient deficiencies, and have a massively outsized impact on fighting climate change; in the future I hope to do much more. By raising $12,000 in this fundraiser together, we have likely managed to save a child's life, stop thousands of tons of carbon emissions, and prevent a decade or more of severe depression.

I couldn't help her, but I am managing to help many others just like her. That was some consolation on the cold, rainy bridge in Istanbul.


If you would like to know more about this powerful approach to helping others, please take a look at Giving What We Can, who have helped me to make a real, meaningful difference in the world.

If you would like to support the fundraiser, please visit


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