Critically acclaimed actor, producer, screenwriter and co-founder of Water.org, Matt Damon is a 21st century renaissance man in every sense, making an impact on (and off!) the silver screen. Fifteen years ago he set himself the significant task of combatting world poverty and poor sanitation, having witnessed its effects first hand when filming. Tirelessly campaigning for the provision of clean water and economic empowerment, since 2009, without further ado, roll out the red carpet it’s Matt Damon!
What prompted you to first get involved with this environmental cause/charity/foundation?
As I researched the world’s most pressing issues, I recognised access to water and sanitation is the solution to a lot of the issues. Without water or toilets, people have no way out of poverty and some of the world’s largest issues can’t be solved—with them, lives, communities, and economies are changed. While I was filming a movie in Sub-Saharan Africa, I spent time with families in a Zambian village. They lacked access to water and toilets. Seeing their daily struggles to find water or a place to go really inspired my passion for, and commitment to, helping solve the global water crisis through my work at Water.org.
What are its current goals and current project?
Water.org has reached more than 25 million people with access to safe water and sanitation, and we’re not stopping. Our goal is to continue to increase financing for water and toilets so more people in need can get the safe water and sanitation solutions they need—bringing the world closer to achieving the global goal of safe water and sanitation for all by 2030.
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What is the worst thing you have witnessed as an environmental activist/ambassador?
About six years ago I was in Haiti. I met a 13-year-old girl who spent 3 to 4 hours of her day collecting water for her family because they didn’t have access to water at home. Kids like her, shouldn’t be burdened with these things. They should be playing and in school, not walking so far to find and carry heavy vessels of water from rivers or ponds.
…and the most hopeful or best?
So, that same girl has access to water now. Through some of our early work at Water.org her family got access to water at home. When I asked her what she would do now that she doesn’t have to collect water every day she said, “I will play.” That was a pretty powerful moment for me because she gets to be a kid now, she gets to play. This is the result of our work–access to water empowers kids and their families with health, hope, and opportunity.
How do you think the conversation around environmental issues has changed in recent years?
I think the world is waking up. I think we have more work to do, and when it comes to things like access to water and improved sanitation for people living in poverty, we’re having important conversations with global leaders on how we’re going to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6. This goal calls for universal access to water and sanitation. According to the latest development reports, the world is not on track to achieve the goal. It will cost approximately $114 billion a year between now and 2030 to get there. The amount needed is three times more than what is currently being applied to solve the water crisis. This is where Water. org comes in. We have a solution that addresses the gap in financing. Through access to affordable financing, we can empower millions in need with safe water and sanitation.
If you were “president of the earth”, what laws or amendments would you enforce to make the planet a better place to live in?
I think breaking the cycle of poverty for people around the world starts with access to safe water. Without it, people can’t survive. So, if I were “president of the earth” I’d make affordable access to safe water for all the priority.
Photographs: Courtesy of water.org