Matt Damon is at the Sundance Film Festival right now promoting Manchester by the Sea, a drama he helped produce that stars Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, and Michelle Williams. The movie’s doing quite well—in fact, it’s close to scoring a near-$10 million distribution deal with Amazon Studios, which is big news in Sundance Land.
But now that he’s in Park City, the Oscar-nominated star is using the massive platform of the festival to spread his message for Water.org, the non-profit organization he co-founded in 2009 with the mission to end the global water crisis in his lifetime. That’s why last night, he and his fellow Water.org founder Gary White spoke on a panel hosted by Stella Artois about their passion for ending this crisis and inspiring others to do the same.
For Damon, it was Bono who encouraged him to get involved. “The first trip I went on was sponsored by Bono’s organization [ONE and (Red)] about 10 years ago,” Damon said. “He rightly assumed that if he just stuck me in the middle of extreme situations with a really upfront look at extreme poverty my life would change. That is exactly what happened. I saw that I could have an impact. It felt like it’s incumbent on me to do whatever I can within my own sphere of influence to effect positive change for people. Looking at all these issues, this one [the worldwide water crisis] was so massive and there was so little awareness about it, it felt like the best place to put my time and energy.”
But it’s not just the interactions with those facing water challenges in developing nations that motivates Damon. It’s his family, too, including wife Luciana Barroso, daughters Gia, Isabella, Stella, and stepdaughter Alexia. “I have four daughters and when you have kids, it’s hard not to see other kids as your own,” he said. “I think that’s just a natural thing that happens for everybody. All my wife and I think about for them is what world we’re going to leave them? I think every parent relates to that. What is our mark going to be? That’s a really big question, and it really is the only question: What are we here for? What are we going to do with our chance? What are we going to do with this life? Being part of the generation who ends the global water crisis would be pretty damn cool.”
There's also a way you can help: Enter the Water.org campaign #BuyALadyaDrink. The non-profit teamed with Stella Artois to design three chalices, each one designed by an artist in a nation affected by the water crisis. For each glass purchased, $13 each at amazon.com, Stella Artois will donate five years of clean drinking water to a woman in a developing nation.
“The water crisis disproportionally affects women,” said Damon. “It’s usually the women—and often the girls—in these extremely poor families that are in charge of collecting water. Lots of girls in the developing world are missing school because they are going on these water collections.”
And it’s working already: “Because of this partnership we were able to reach 290,000 people just last year with clean water,” Damon said. “The impact is incalculable, which goes right to our focus, which is ending this crisis in our lifetime.”