SEATTLE, Washington — Water is a resource that most of us take for granted. A cold glass of water is easily within reach for most individuals in developed countries. However, that isn’t the case in many places throughout the world. There are many people who still lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation. These five celebrities have recognized the ongoing water crisis and brought attention to this issue by partnering with charities and organizations to combat the problem.
Matt Damon and Water.org
Matt Damon is one of the celebrities fighting the water crisis. Before making it on the big screen in the late 1980s, Matt Damon was given a global perspective that most kids aren’t privy to. As a child, Damon traveled with his mother internationally. The exposure to poverty in developing countries molded his perspective. “I’d seen extreme poverty at an early age,” he says. “I knew what it was, and I always cared about it.”
He realized the extent of the global water crisis after spending time with families in a Zambian village that lacked access to local, clean water and toilets. This inspired him to found the H20 Africa Foundation, which sought to raise awareness for safe water initiatives and bring water to families in need in Africa. However, it was the meeting of the minds with partner Gary White, a water and sanitation expert from Kansas City, which led to the creation of Water.org.
Realizing the global impact they could have together, Damon and White merged to found the organization in 2009. The non-profit works to provide access to clean drinking water for 13 countries around the world. It collaborates with local micro-finance institutions to make loans to provide access to clean water and sanitation. From 2014 to 2016, the organization brought clean water to roughly 3.3 million people. Damon’s active role within Water.org’s work led to TIME Magazine naming him one of the most influential people in the world in 2011. “Our vision is clean water and sanitation for everyone, in our lifetime,” he says. “So we better get to work.”
Kendall Jenner and Charity: Water
In November of 2017, supermodel Kendall Jenner celebrated her turning 22 by giving back rather than focusing on receiving. Jenner donated her birthday to supporting charity: water, an organization that works to build sustainable, community-owned water projects around the world. Jenner made a donation to fund 25 wells in Ethiopia, which will bring clean water to 5,000 people.
She also encouraged her fans to donate $22 in honor of her 22nd birthday. The results are impressive. Charity: water has funded 44,007 water projects around the world and has given 10,043,704 people in 27 countries access to clean water. At the end of the campaign, Jenner raised a total of $67,796, which served people in 11 different countries.
Gisele Bündchenr and Projeto Água Limpa
Arguably one of the most successful models of all time, Gisele Bündchen is much more than just a pretty face. Growing up in the small town of Horizontina in Brazil, she developed a deep connection to the beauty of the natural world at a young age. During a 2004 trip to the Xingu region in the Amazon rainforest, Bündchen came to recognize the need for environmental advocacy. Upon her return home, she immediately took action.
She collaborated with footwear company Grendene to create Ipanema Gisele Bündchen, a flip-flop line dedicated to raising money and awareness for environmental causes, especially water-related projects in the Amazon and Atlantic Rainforest. In 2008, she returned to Horizontina and launched Projeto Água Limpa (Clean Water Project) with her family. The project’s aim is to implement sustainable environmental management and promote the recovery of riparian vegetation. The project planted about 40,000 native saplings, which helped to restore the water quality in the region.
Bündchen’s environmental efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2009, she was designated a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N.’s Environment Program. Her advocacy has also won her multiple awards, including the Global Environmental Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School and the Best Green International Celebrity Award by the Green Awards. Bündchen is dedicated to supporting environmental causes in order to ensure that her children will have the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature the way she did.
Jay-Z and “Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life”
Jay-Z is one of a select few celebrities fighting the water crisis. In 2006, mega hip-hop star Jay-Z partnered with the U.N. and MTV to create a documentary bringing awareness to the world water crisis. His initial trip to Angola was his first experience witnessing people who do not have access to clean water and sanitation. For a family in a small shanty in Angola, the nearest water source was over half a mile away. The small village also had no sewage treatment facilities. Rather than being a remote influence, the star chose to work with people directly, going into towns and learning about their culture.
In Durban, South Africa, Jay-Z visited a school and accompanied the students to retrieve clean water and observe what they must go through on their trek. The students had to leave school to gather the water. They walked down steep mountains to reach the streams that run through the valleys. Throughout the world, about 400 million school days are lost because children do not have access to water in schools. Many students are either dropping out or suffering from diseases. The trip also allowed Jay-Z to witness the water sources for which he has provided money, including a play pump that utilizes the energy from kids playing to pump water into a tower from which they can draw.
Ringo Starr and WaterAid
Ringo Starr originally learned about WaterAid in 2003, citing that something “struck a chord” in him. The organization helps to raise awareness for millions of people denied access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene simply due to inequalities outside of their control. The charity also aids communities in establishing sources of water. In India, they built rainwater-harvesting jars, which filters the rain to extract dirt and bugs. WaterAid also provides communal taps for villagers, which leads to improved hygiene and sanitation.
In 2019, Starr designed a badge for WaterAid for the Glastonbury Festival, which WaterAid gave out to individuals who refilled their water bottles. He also helped to launch a garden dedicated to WaterAid at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. The theme for the “Herbert Smith Garden for WaterAid” was that water brings change and hope. Water management needs to be environmentally driven to preserve harmony with the natural world. The garden itself is shaped like a droplet of water and includes a water pump at the point where the droplet begins.
Water is a necessary resource for everyone around the world. Unfortunately, access to clean water and sanitation is not the reality for many people in developing countries. These five celebrities fighting the water crisis chose to become directly involved and personally committed to making a difference to address problems with this basic aspect of life in the world.
– Rachel Baum