SEATTLE — According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “783 million (around one in nine) people [don’t] have access to clean water.” The Water Project reports that, of those 783 million people, around 40 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 2.5 billion (one in three) people don’t have access to proper sanitation. Matt Damon’s activism and charitable efforts are helping the fight against water insecurity.
Damon is well-known for his acting career, appearing in movies like “Good Will Hunting,” “The Martian” and “Saving Private Ryan.” However, the actor is also known for his philanthropic efforts to help those in need across the globe.
In 2006, the multi-faceted celebrity co-founded H2O Africa Foundation, an organization that gathers support for clean water programs and creates awareness of the water crisis in Africa. In 2009, Damon’s foundation merged with WaterPartners to create Water.org. Water.org works to provide safe, clean water to impoverished countries and give hope to families in need.
At first, the seven-time Golden Globe nominee attempted to directly impact impoverished areas by helping build wells and immersing himself in the work. However, he soon realized that he could make a bigger impact than physically building one well at a time.
“Had I stayed with just drilling wells, I’d have reached thousands of people at this point, but by the end of next year we’ll hit three million people that we’ve reached this way,” Damon said of his partnership with WaterPartners.
Matt Damon’s activism is motivated in part by a concern for how different his daughters’ lives would be without access to safe, clean water.
“As a guy who has four daughters, this is a huge issue for women and girls: girls are often left to leave school and go find water, and that obviously has a huge impact on the quality of life they can expect to have,” he said.
Damon also uses his humor and wit to help raise awareness for water insecurity. For example, while taking part in the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for ALS, he poured toilet water on his head instead of regular water. He’s also been quoted saying, “Until everybody has access to clean water and sanitation, I will not go to the bathroom.”
To further fight the global crisis, Damon is teaming up with his best friend and celebrity Ben Affleck along with HBO to produce a film called “Thirst.” The two celebrities announced the idea in 2015 and, as of May 2016, are continuing to work on it. Through their popularity and expertise in the cinematic field, the duo hopes to raise awareness for the pressing global issue of thirst.
– Casey Marx