Through his organization Water.org, Matt Damon is determined to put an end to the profound crisis that a child under the age of 5 dies every 21 seconds because he or she doesn’t have access to clean water. This crisis affects almost 780 million people worldwide. The charity is dedicated to helping communities in developing countries throughout Africa, the Americas, and South Asia fund projects that provide long-term, sustainable solutions, thereby ending desperate searches for potable water.
We chatted with him inside our TIFF portrait studio about his cause, which he first told us back in January has “helped more than a million people, and we believe we can reach millions more.” Read below for more on his incredible efforts:
You’re able to and you do give back a lot. What was the reason you decided to be a part of water.org?
Just looking at issues in this world, water was just such a huge part of the entire problem–water and sanitation. Every 21 seconds a child dies from lack of access to clean water and sanitation. It’s something that’s impossible for us to almost wrap our brains around because we’re never thirsty. We grew up with a kitchen sink being as far as we have to go to get clean water and we all grew up with toilets. Maybe we had grandparents who had to deal with things like that, but for the most part, we don’t have these kinds of problems, so the concept that children are dying by the millions every year is something that a lot of people don’t know. Having been to some of these communities and seeing the way that kids are missing school, I realized that there’s a chance to have a big impact on a lot of people’s lives.
Tell us about about some of the hands-on efforts.
We’re helping people get loans so that they can basically be participants in solving their own problems. We’re able to help a much greater number of people than if we were just drilling wells. About half of water projects historically around the world fail for a whole host of reasons, but with this microfinance piece that we use we’ve actually had incredible success with these loans, and we’ve brought water sanitation to over 3 million people. So it’s a very good start. We have a long way to go but it’s something that we’re really proud of.