Through his organization Water.org, Matt Damon is determined to put an end to the profound crisis that a child under the age of 5 dies every 21 seconds because he or she doesn’t have access to clean water. This crisis affects almost 780 million people worldwide. The charity is dedicated to helping communities in developing countries throughout Africa, the Americas, and South Asia fund projects that provide long-term, sustainable solutions, thereby ending desperate searches for potable water.
We chatted with him inside our TIFF portrait studio about his cause, which he first told us back in January has “helped more than a million people, and we believe we can reach millions more.” Read below for more on his incredible efforts:
You’re able to and you do give back a lot. What was the reason you decided to be a part of water.org?
Just looking at issues in this world, water was just such a huge part of the entire problem–water and sanitation. Every 21 seconds a child dies from lack of access to clean water and sanitation. It’s something that’s impossible for us to almost wrap our brains around because we’re never thirsty. We grew up with a kitchen sink being as far as we have to go to get clean water and we all grew up with toilets. Maybe we had grandparents who had to deal with things like that, but for the most part, we don’t have these kinds of problems, so the concept that children are dying by the millions every year is something that a lot of people don’t know. Having been to some of these communities and seeing the way that kids are missing school, I realized that there’s a chance to have a big impact on a lot of people’s lives.
Tell us about about some of the hands-on efforts.
We’re helping people get loans so that they can basically be participants in solving their own problems. We’re able to help a much greater number of people than if we were just drilling wells. About half of water projects historically around the world fail for a whole host of reasons, but with this microfinance piece that we use we’ve actually had incredible success with these loans, and we’ve brought water sanitation to over 3 million people. So it’s a very good start. We have a long way to go but it’s something that we’re really proud of.
About one in nine people, or 750 million people globally, do not have access to safe water. Around the world, women and children are spending 140 million hours a day collecting water.
Water.org, cofounded and supported by actor Matt Damon, has been screening and certifying quality indigenous partner organizations for over 20 years who best understand the needs of their local culture. They can navigate the social, political, and economic issues which may impact projects, are better able to leverage local financial resources for cost-sharing, and know the local expertise which exists for project implementation. It is also more cost effective than hiring expatriate staff. The motto is “Safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all.”
Communities and individuals become invested owners by contributing to the project cost. Communities can contribute at least 10 percent of the total project cost through grants, either by financial contributions, securing local materials, or doing physical labor or “sweat equity.” The WaterCredit branch allows people to get loans through its network of local partner organizations such as join-lending groups, women’s self-help groups, and community-based organizations. Typical loans range in size from $50 – $200 USD.
One of the first steps is the community election of a local water committee which plays a critical role in the project’s success. Since women disproportionately bear the water collection burden, the committee must include female members. They serve as a liaison between the community and partner organization, facilitate the hygiene education program, and determine the project construction community work schedule. Committee members are also trained on operation and maintenance of the water and sanitation systems, and management of the finances.
Whether a project is grant funded or involves small water and sanitation loans, community ownership is integral to its success. Water.org insists on community involvement at every step from project planning, financing, and building through ongoing project maintenance.
The WaterCredit Initiative helps with the small water and sanitation loans to communities and individuals who have no access to traditional credit markets, empowering them to solve their own water issues more quickly. As loan payments are paid in, the money is assigned to other people with water needs. For details on WaterCredit, view the website.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck making fun of each other! For charity, of course!
The video which is for the Omaze.com initiative where you donate some money to Eastern Congo Initiative and Water.org and can win a trip to Los Angeles and hang out with Matt and Ben (It’s for US Only though). Read more about it at the website.
Here’s the video:
Matt received an special award, the “Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award” for his efforts to combat the global water crisis through his organization Water.org. Here are pictures and the article below is from Variety.
- Appearances and Events > 2014 > 2014 UNICEF Ball – January 14th, 2014
Just two days after winning a Golden Globe for his role in HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra,” Michael Douglas received the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Peace Award on Tuesday evening at the 2014 UNICEF Ball, held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Douglas became a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998 and has been a part of nuclear disarmament efforts and other humanitarian endeavors throughout his involvement with UNICEF.
Douglas’s “Behind the Candelabra” co-star Matt Damon and producer Jerry Weintraub, who was honored at the 2009 UNICEF Ball, served as the event’s MCs and began the evening on a light-hearted note. The two joked about their relationship with Douglas and compared themselves to Golden Globes co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. They also called attention to the work the UNICEF does to serve children in need all around the world. Damon recalled collecting coins as a young boy through UNICEF’s trick-or-treat initiative.
“It’s absolutely worth it,” Damon said. “For the last 70 years, UNICEF has saved the lives of more children than other humanitarian organization in the entire world.”
Danny Kaye’s daughter, Dena, spoke about her father’s legacy as UNICEF’s first celebrity representative.
“He’d say ‘Den, children are the world’s most valuable natural resource,’” Kaye shared. “That’s exactly why we’re here tonight.”
Southern California Board Chair of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF Ghada Irani was also honored with the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Leadership Award.
When it came time to present Douglas with his prize, Damon joked, “And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the moment where we give Michael Douglas another award.”
In his acceptance speech, Douglas discussed Kaye’s legacy and the impact it had on him.
“Danny was the first person (in whom) I recognized the power of celebrity and how it could be used for good in the world,” Douglas explained. “He was beloved by all children of all ages. He was the perfect match for UNICEF.”
Much to Damon’s surprise, Douglas then presented him with a Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award for his efforts to combat the global water crisis through his organization Water.org.
Among the more than 600 guests in attendance were U.S. Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Carol Stern and celebrity UNICEF supporters including Alyssa Milano, Anna Kendrick, Tea Leoni, Laura Marano, James Marsden, Sylvester Stalone and Michael Sheen.
“Every night, there are children around the world who have a hard time going to sleep, not because they’re afraid of a possible monster in the closet, but because they face real monsters – abandonment, hunger, severe illness, abuse, the complete loss of childhood,” Stern said. “When a disaster strikes, like the recent typhoon in the Philippines or the conflict in Syria, the monsters grow,” she continued.
Stern also emphasized UNICEF’s “Believe in Zero” campaign, which focuses on creating a world in which no child dies of preventable causes.
Following the dinner, Douglas and Irani were serenaded by singer Paul Anka with a personalized version of his hit song “My Way,” a live auction was held, and Kristin Chenoweth also performed three songs.
Yup! Matt is on strike. Not from acting, but from using the toilet. The new campaign has the purpose of raising awareness towards the global water crisis, championed by Water.org foundation. You can participate by using the hashtag #StrikeWithMe on Instagram. Check the website: strikewithme.org.
“The concept of experimenting with comedy to generate new levels of awareness and participation in the cause is something we’ve been toying with for a couple of years,” said Damon, who co-founded Water.org in 2009. “If Sarah Silverman and I can generate millions of views on YouTube for something ridiculous, then we should be able to do better for one of the most important and solvable issues of our time.” (LATimes)
ToiletDay.org and Matt Damon want you to donate your voice — that is your Twitter or Facebook voice — to talk shi*t about the global toilet crisis.
Starting Monday, individuals can authorize ToiletDay.org to post once daily status updates from either their Facebook or Twitter account until World Toilet Day this Saturday, Nov. 19. If you chose to sign up, ToiletDay.org’s daily posts will be blasted from your account without your review of each individual message.
Billions of people around the world lack access to toilets, causing a host of infectious illnesses. Children in developing countries often carry 1,000 parasitic worms in their bodies due to poor sanitation, according to ToiletDay.org. More people in the world have mobile phones than access to toilets.
The “Talk sh*t all week” campaign is using social media to spark conversations about global sanitation issues. The campaign is using expletives such as “shit” and “crap” to draw attention to the cause with a bit of humor, explains Mike McCamon, chief community officer of Water.org.
“We’re talking about something no one knows how to address, and we’re using the words to talk about it,” McMahon says about the campaign’s word choice.
The first message, being tweeted Monday, says “More people have a mobile phone than a toilet” and uses the Twitter hashtag #TalkShit. Similar updates will be shared daily for the next six days, although you can sign up at any point during the week. If you’re concerned about indefinitely handing over permission to your account, the campaign assures participants their access will only last through Saturday.
The campaign is a partnership between Water.org (co-founded by Matt Damon, who lends his voice in videos including the one above), the Gates Foundation, Acumen, ONE, Watertoilet.org, Change.org and Water for People. It uses similar technology to Water.org’s “Twitter Twakeover” this summer, which surrendered the organization’s @Water handle to the user who racked up the most votes from an online competition.
Do you think this catchy campaign lingo will help attract new advocates for global sanitation issues? Tell us in the comments.
The inside story of Matt Damon’s bold yet sane plan to use his celebrity and smarts to help attack one of the globe’s great crises.
Once upon a time, Matt Damon went for a long walk in rural Zambia. The devoted family man and method philanthropist was accompanying a 14-year-old Zambian girl who had no idea that her hiking companion was an Academy Award-winning international heartthrob.
The walk came toward the end of a 10-day African journey, a systematic primer on the complexities of the continent’s extreme poverty that had been organized for Damon by staffers from his friend Bono’s ONE campaign. Damon was on a quest to understand what it meant to be really, really poor. “It was like a mini course in college,” he says. Every day brought a different subject: urban AIDS, microfinance, education, and, finally, water. While walking with the young teen on her hour-long trudge to collect water for her family, something clicked. “We talked the whole time [through a translator]. When I asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up — ‘Do you want to stay here?’ ” he says, pointing to the memory of the dusty village — “she got shy all of a sudden.” As they returned, both toting 5-gallon jugs of water filled at the well, she finally confessed her dream: to go to the big city, Lusaka, and become a nurse. Damon recalled his dreams at the same age, when he and best friend Ben Affleck were plotting their way from Boston to casting agents in New York. That connection opened the door for Damon. “I remembered so well the feeling of being young, when that whole world of possibility was open to you.”
But while Damon’s dream was made possible by Amtrak, the girl’s was possible only because somebody drilled a borewell near her home — and, yes, an hour’s walk for water is good news in lots of places in the world. Nearly 1 billion souls lack access to clean water; three times that number lack access to proper sanitation. “This is not something that most 14-year-olds have to go through,” says Damon, 40. Without access to the water, his companion would have been unable to go to school and would likely have been forced into a precarious fight for life, spending her days scavenging for often-filthy water in unhealthy and unsafe environments. “Now she can hope to be a nurse and contribute to the economic engine of Zambia,” he says. “Of all the different things that keep people in this kind of death spiral of extreme poverty, water just seemed so huge.” He pauses. “And it doesn’t have to be.”
Damon tells me this story on a rainy spring day in Manhattan, after a full schedule of board meetings for Water.org, the charity he cofounded in 2009, three years after his Zambia trip, with longtime water expert, and now dear friend, Gary White. It has been a long day but a good one, and Damon has more news to share. He checks his watch. “I have to pick up my daughter from school. Come along and we’ll keep talking,” he tells me. As we make our way from a conference room at McKinsey in Midtown (a board member works there) to a car waiting on the street, I watch passersby light up in recognition and try to catch his eye. In spite of his attempt to blend in — Damon is wearing glasses, a splash of whiskers, and a Panavision baseball cap — he is unmistakable. And he never fails to return a smile. “Clearly my strong suit is and will be trying to get people to care about this issue,” he says of his primary role. “Our vision is clean water and sanitation for everyone, in our lifetime …” he trails off. “So we better get to work.”
For all his star power, though, Damon is more than just the pretty face of Water.org. He has turned himself into a development expert. This would seem like an obvious and necessary first step for someone embracing the global water crisis as a personal mission. But, in fact, it’s highly unusual for a celebrity to dive this deep into a problem this daunting. Whether talking microfinance strategy with rural bankers, giving detailed reports from the field at the annual Clinton Global Initiative, or personally thanking donors like PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Damon has quietly developed the cred of a program geek. “If you want to understand how this works,” he says, sounding more like an anthropologist than a celebrity spokesperson, “there is no substitute for going there and talking to people in their homes.” It’s an approach he comes by honestly. His mother, a professor of early childhood education, spent part of her summers living with local families in Guatemala and Mexico, attending language school in preparation for her field research. She brought her impressionable teenage son along. “She specialized in nonviolent conflict resolution,” Damon explains. In war-torn areas like El Salvador, she interviewed children, studied their artwork, and documented their trauma. “So I’d seen extreme poverty at an early age,” he says. “I knew what it was, and I always cared about it.” He has replicated her research process, immersing himself in the business of social enterprise until he found the cause that he felt passion for — water.
You can read the rest of the article on Fast Company website.
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.
Watch the full interview with Matt Damon and the cast of “The Adjustment Bureau” tonight. “Piers Morgan Tonight” airs weeknights on CNN/US at 9 p.m. ET and on CNN International at 1200 GMT/1300 CET/2000 HKT.
(CNN) — When CNN’s Piers Morgan asked actor Matt Damon if he was happy with the way President Barack Obama has been running the country and if Damon was “a fan” of the president, Damon answered “no.”
Damon and the cast of “The Adjustment Bureau” — Emily Blunt, John Slattery and Anthony Mackie — are Thursday evening’s guests on “Piers Morgan Tonight.” During the course of their conversation, Damon and Morgan covered Hollywood, politics, fatherhood and much more.
“He (Obama) misinterpreted his mandate,” said Damon. “He’s doubled down on a lot of things.”
“In his State of the Union he didn’t even say the word ‘poverty,’ ” said Damon. “You’ve got millions of people languishing in it.” Damon, who backed the Obama campaign in 2008, said he appreciates that the president is a “deep thinker.” The actor called Obama brilliant, but said he “definitely wanted more.”
When questioned about what he’d do about Afghanistan, Damon said, “I don’t think the mission there has been very well articulated. And I think it would help to kind of reframe the way we’re thinking about being there and why we’re there.”
Damon also said there has not been a meaningful reform of Wall Street. He said he believes that is “dangerous” and “shameful” and that the financial crisis is “just going to happen again,” because “they don’t make anything. They don’t build anything.”