MIAMI, FLORIDA (Ecorazzi) - World Water Day is March 22, and in honor of this amazing annual event, we’d like to direct your attention toward one of the most driven water crusaders on the planet: Matt Damon. When it comes to fighting the water crisis, no celeb works harder.
Damon is the co-founder (along with water supply expert Gary White) of Water.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to clean water to everyone on the planet. Although it may seem as though water is one of our most abundant resources, the reality is startling. Check out these grim facts from Water.org:
-3.574 million people die each year from water related diseases (a number that’s equal to the entire city of Los Angeles).
-884 million people around the globe lack access to clean water — that’s nearly three times the U.S. population.
-An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
-The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
Fortunately, Damon is working hard to improve these statistics. In an interview last year, he said, “I think what resonates with me most is when you see people living without clean water and they’re forced to scavenge for water and basically use up all of their time just doing that. You realize that they’re in such a crippling cycle of poverty; it’s just a death spin that they can’t possibly get out of.”
Finding His Passion
Last summer, Damon and Water.org were featured in Fast Company magazine profile that detailed Damon’s time in Africa in 2006, where his interest in water was first piqued. The people he met were forced to walk for an hour just to get clean water from the “nearby” well. He joined in on one of these water walks, accompanying a teenage girl whose dream was to become a nurse one day — a dream that could actually be achieved, because of her access to clean water. Without it, she most likely would have dropped out of school and spent her days scavenging for (likely unclean) water sources — not exactly a bright future, but one that many poverty-stricken children face.
“This is not something that most 14-year-olds have to go through,” Damon told the magazine. “Now she can hope to be a nurse and contribute to the economic engine of Zambia. Of all the different things that keep people in this kind of death spiral of extreme poverty, water just seemed so huge. And it doesn’t have to be.”
Making A Difference
So in 2009 he partnered with White to create Water.org, and gamely uses his star power to make a difference. “Clearly my strong suit is and will be trying to get people to care about this issue,” he said. “Our vision is clean water and sanitation for everyone, in our lifetime.”
His plan is working; Water.org has been extremely successful in garnering donations. The Fast Company profile noted that the organization was well on its way to receiving $10 million last year, and that was before PepsiCo stepped in with the largest donation in the Foundation’s 50-year history.
The PepsiCo Foundation donated $8 million, which will fund clean water programs for more than 80,000 people in the coming years, and Damon is grateful for every penny.
“There will never be enough charity in the world to solve this problem…In the U.S., we have the luxury to debate and plan for water shortages and investments in our infrastructure. For billions, this is a daily nightmare and fight for survival. It’s visionary partners like the PepsiCo Foundation that recognize that and I hope their example inspires others to follow suit,” he said of the donation.
A little over a year ago, the Oscar winner filmed a video about his mission, his passion for clean water, and what makes his organization different from others with similar ideals.
“It’s not just about digging a well. It’s not this kind of paternalistic, ‘come in, leave a well, and get out.’ It’s about engaging the local community. We saw in Ethiopia that people are drinking this filthy water and there was this incredibly elaborate well that an Indian NGO had put in. And it was an incredibly kind thing, and clearly they’d raised money…and put in this state-of-the-art well. The problem was, when it broke down, there was no one who could fix it. And the parts weren’t available in rural Ethiopia…That is a good example of what we really don’t want to do. The well-meaning part we want, but it’s about smart solutions…All solutions are local, so you need to engage the local community,” he said.
Changing the World
So, what’s does the future hold for Damon and his charity? According to that same interview, he’s hoping for a change in social consciousness.
“It’s starting to get really exciting, because it feels like people are starting to become aware of Water.org…We have a pretty ambitious mission statement. We envision a world in which everyone has access to clean water, and there are about a billion people who don’t…We genuinely feel like we can solve this problem, and it starts to get exciting when I’m walking down the street and people come up and they want to talk about this stuff. The more people who start to become aware of it — because that’s obviously how it’s gonna be, how we’re gonna beat this thing — it’s people getting engaged and getting involved. And it feels like we’re approaching that tipping point where enough people say, you know, ‘enough’ and take action. We’re getting close to that, and once we get there, things are gonna move really fast.”
Copyright 2014 Ecorazzi
Updated 944 days ago Article ID# 1508140