TIME has released its 2011 list of the 100 Most Influential People – and we’re happy to see some familiar Hollywood activists making the cut.
For their efforts to help fund clean water projects throughout the developing world, Matt Damon and Gary White – co-founders of Water.org – were honored in a piece written by Ted Danson. “Their message is one of hope; their solutions for providing access to clean water are simple and cost effective,” praises the actor. “And their work gives us an opportunity to change lives forever.”
We’ve given a lot of credit to Damon in the past for his efforts to help raise awareness on the water crisis – so it’s great to see him being recognized here. “Matt and I, along with our staff, partners, donors, and long-time supporters believe we can achieve universal access to safe water in our lifetime,” said White. “We know there will never be enough charity to fully realize our vision so it requires us to continually look to new ideas and ways to reach more people more quickly – something we have been doing since our founding.”
Best Actor winner Colin Firth was also singled out for his work both on and off the camera. “The two sides of Colin, 50, inform each other,” writes Helen Mirren. “He can be the glamorous celebrity, but look closely at photos of him on the red carpet: there is a kindness in his eyes, an introspection and consideration. He actively pursues a deeper understanding of the world around him, and his humanitarianism gives a depth and wisdom to his performances.”
Besides his work with Oxfam, Firth has also lobbied for the Make Trade Fair campaign, Amnesty International, and Survival International, and has won various awards for his efforts, such as the European Voice Campaigner of the Year award, The Hollywood Reporter’s inaugural Philanthropist of the Year award, as well as the BAFTA Britannia Humanitarian Award.
Matt Damon and Gary White
Being a celebrity is like being a 5-year-old in a room with all the adults staring at you. It’s easy to spin out of control. But if you redirect the energy coming at you to a cause you care about, it can be very powerful.
In Matt Damon’s case, what he wants you to know is that every 15 minutes a child under the age of 5 dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation and it doesn’t have to be that way. Matt, 40, teamed up with Gary White, 48, a longtime expert in water-supply systems, in 2009 and created Water.org. Their message is one of hope; their solutions for providing access to clean water are simple and cost effective. And their work gives us an opportunity to change lives forever.