The quality of water and the quality of life, in all its infinite forms are critical parts of the overall ongoing health of our planet, our future and most importantly, ourselves. Water is vital to our existence and considering how life has progressed, it’s become an essential need that man has now often overlooked. We will never know the full worth of water until the well is dry and in some developing countries, growing up without water is a norm. There are nearly one billion people in this world who lack access to clean drinking water and it’s a heartbreaking truth that every fifteen seconds a child under the age of five dies from a waterborne disease. Someone who’s adamant on making sure clean water becomes a necessity in every country is one of the founders of Water.org, Matt Damon.
Matt Damon may sound like a familiar name to you because Matt Damon is that Matt Damon. He isn’t just an actor with an Academy Award and an impressive filmography. He’s a leader in the crusade for clean water and with his leadership skills, he chooses to defy reality and envision what can be achieved by understanding the issues of those affected by the lack of fundamental needs. He and co-founder, Gary White of Water.org are guiding the way for constructive progression in the safe global water and sanitation crisis. Since the launch of Water.org, both founders have brought clean water to nearly 300,000 people.
Damon’s interest in bringing attention to the global water crisis started in 2008 when he met with Gary White at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. Already involved in relief efforts through the H2O Africa Foundation, which he created in 2006, Damon liked White’s ideas and made a grant on behalf of H2O Africa to White’s organization, WaterPartners. The two stayed in touch and eventually came to a decision of merging their nonprofits into Water.org in early 2009.
The Water.org organization has a bold and ambitious statement where they envision the world in which everybody has access to clean water. Damon chose to focus his efforts on the global water crisis for two important reasons; the enormity of the problem and the availability of solutions. With co-founding Water.org to find such solutions and provide sufficient safe and clean drinking water, he expresses that the organization’s needs will be met despite it being such an immense challenge.
“This last year and a half has been really energizing,” he tells Katie Couric in an interview with Glamour this past January. “It’s felt like there’s so much stuff we can do, there’s so much low-hanging fruit. And so I’m really hopeful, actually because I know that feeling but I don’t feel it this time around.”
The thing most people don’t understand is that clean water is critical for existence. In North America or Europe, Damon expresses that one can just walk over to a tap and clean water flows but the reality is that not everyone can relate to the crisis occurring in the developing countries because they have not seen it firsthand.
On one of his visits, he explains to Water.org in a candid interview of sitting over a hand-dug well, watching children pulling water out of a filthy hole with the it appearing to be like chocolate milk. It’s a staggering problem that cripples communities with disease and ultimately death.
The actor’s interest in a cause like this peaked further when he spent the day with a fourteen-year-old girl in Zambia just over a year ago. He walked two miles with her to the closest water source outside their village and learned she wanted to move one day to the big city of Lusaka and become a nurse. It was clear to Damon that her community needed help and building a well was vital to this little girl’s future.
“She would never even be able to entertain the concept of planning for the future – she would have been trying to survive that day. This one well was giving hope to thousands of people in the surrounding area and this hope translates into something concrete. That girl can now fulfill a dream to become a nurse and can become an economic and social contributor to the Zambian economy,” he tells Family Circle this past November.
In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan earlier this month, Damon stated that though the water crisis is a staggering problem and totally preventable, the best way to drive water to most people is going to be through innovations.
“In fact, my partner, Gary White, one of these innovations that I’m really proud of that I’d love to just tell you about for a second called WaterCredit. And in places like India, and these crowded slums where the municipality is pumping right through – right under the street there. People would be walking, you know a mile or a mile and a half to a water source at a designated time and waiting and standing around to collect their water. Well, what he figured out was for 75 bucks, you could connect directly to the municipality. So suddenly, these people had water in their house whenever they wanted it.”
With the WaterCredit Initiative, not only are lives saved but so is time. He shares that these community residents were wasting a walk to get to the water source and standing around waiting for their turn when, really they could use that time more efficiently and work to earn not just for themselves but their family and benefit the overall community. Damon explains that the loans made as per the WaterCredit Initiative are then paid off 99%, where Water.org underwrites the loans and then proves the model to the banks with the communities now sourcing commercial capital for themselves.
One thing Damon realizes most is the severity of such a crisis. It’s understood that in our modern world, we take such a basic life necessity for granted and in these countries that are suffering, water becomes an unthinkable luxury. He finds the experience of meeting those in such positions, humbling and inspiring.
Matt Damon is one of those people with not just a solid character but with an immense heart. In taking part with an organization like Water.org, Damon can put in his free time with a nonpartisan, non-political movement and basically get clean water to people in need. It’s one of the single most effective things he can do with a position like his and it’s far than admirable, it’s awe-inspiring.
It is known that leaders must be close enough to relate to others but be far enough ahead to motivate them and Damon seems to do just that. In an interview with the Family Circle, published last November, Damon says the extreme scenes he’s witnessed with the communities in need have not just put the Water.org visits in perspective, but his own.
“Nothing more fundamentally improves life in a community than access to clean water. Both the problem and solution continue to motivate me.”
World Water Day, designated by the United Nations as the day of the year when we shine a light on the global safe water and sanitation issue is March 22 and extends to a week of efforts through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. For more information on how to donate your voice and make a difference, check out One Week For Water.
Also, be sure to pick up a limited edition designed Water.org CamelBak water bottle at the official, Water.org site. Not only are the bottles environmentally friendly, but 100% of the profits go directly to support nearly a billion people in the world who lack clean water. Do your part and see how you can help!
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