Matt Damon’s Water.org Changing the Meaning of Charity

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SEATTLE — In 2009, Academy Award-winning actor Matt Damon and Gary White joined together to co-found an incredible organization known as Water.org.

On top of being an actor, screenwriter and producer, Matt Damon had previously been the creator of the H2O Africa Foundation. He was inspired as a youth to be attentive to the challenges of clean water access in developing countries.

Gary White is an entrepreneur who has three degrees in civil and environmental engineering. Using these tools, he also created his own organization, WaterPartners, in 1990 in order to use his knowledge to help others. Realizing that they shared similar visions, these two men merged their organizations to create Water.org.

A common association of the word charity is a group or individual donating money in order to help a cause. Gary White and Matt Damon’s Water.org is changing the meaning of charity. While there is an evident donation and fundraising aspect to their campaign, Water.org does more than just raise money. It offers resources and essential tools for countless individuals and families.

As Gary White says in an interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, “What we help the poor do is tap into their intrinsic power as customers and as citizens. And what that means is basically helping them get access to microloans so that they can get a water connection at their home.”

Women and girls around the world spend nearly 200 million hours every day walking to collect water from faraway sources because it is not accessible at home. This makes it harder for them to attend school if time must be spent obtaining water. It also stagnates economic development because people do not have the means to climb out of poverty.

Gary White and Matt Damon’s Water.org is facilitating microloans to these struggling families by helping institutions build water and sanitation loans into their portfolios. This means that people are offered a loan to pay a connection fee or to be able to afford ways to hook up water directly to their homes. For approximately two years after installation, loan payments are equal to the price that family would have to pay to get clean water elsewhere. Once the two years is up, then the payments only entail a small monthly water bill.

While it might seem pointless if a family still has to pay monthly fees after installation, the aim is to provide access to affordable capital. It is giving people a chance to invest in clean water and a better future. It saves time and money in the long run.

A key benefit of this is that beneficiaries of this loan no longer have to spend hours every day walking to and from water sources with heavy buckets. Children can instead use this time to focus on schooling and parents can dedicate time to the workforce.

The demand for loan programs is very evident in developing countries, and it is a great way to jump-start an economy. The only issue in the past was obtaining these microloans from reliable sources.

Gary White and Matt Damon’s Water.org is bridging this gap. They have partnered with many companies and brands for the project. These partners include IKEA Foundation, Stella Artois, and PEPSICO Foundation. Through valiant efforts, millions of people in the past 10 years have received the necessary tools to escape from this current water crisis.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

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Caysi Simpson

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