Matt Damon is on a Mission to End the Global Water Crisis
By Beckie Strum
Four years earlier, the actor had teamed up with White, a social entrepreneur and leading authority on safe water and sanitation, to co-found the nonprofit Water.org, which helps impoverished families access microloans to pay for things like a home water hookup or water filtration system—utilities taken for granted in the developed world. During the India trip, Damon and White used the six-hour rides between meetings with their local partners—microfinance institutions in places like Chennai and Tiruchirappalli—to mull over one pervasive concern: These lenders didn’t have enough money to meet the crushing need from borrowers. The vast number of families in need of US$200–US$300 loans to buy their first-ever toilet, or install a water catchment system, was overwhelming lenders’ capacity.
“The demand for this water credit was huge and immediate. If we could just get more affordable capital into the system, they could make more loans,” says Damon, the 48-year-old star of such hits as The Martian, the Bourne franchise, and Good Will Hunting, recalling that formative trip.
At some point during the drive, the Oscar winner turned to White and got real. “Look, you know, I have extra money,” he told him. “There are [other] people like me. Why wouldn’t they want their money that’s sitting around to do something really good in the world for nominally less of a return?”
Photo courtesy of WaterEquity.