Matt Damon Tries to Get Clean Water and Toilets for India’s Poor
Friday, August 30, 2013
Matt Damon finds it a challenge to get people to care about water. It’s why he was in India from Aug. 23 to 26 on a four-day tour. Not to promote his latest film Elysium, a sci-fi dystopia with a socialist underpinning, but to help the rural and urban poor in India get access to clean water and sanitation by investing in tube wells, hand pumps and toilets with proper drainage facilities.
Mr. Damon cofounded Water.org, a Missouri-based nonprofit organization that partners with microfinance institutions to facilitate loans, so that people can afford the “dignity of a toilet” and “clean water.” In the five years that the organization has been active in India, it has helped 500,000 people in 11 states get microloans, and now the goal is increase this to 800,000 by 2016. It is a high bar that Mr. Damon and the group’s cofounder, Gary White, have set for themselves. Along with Mr. White, an engineer who has been working in the field of water sanitation for 23 years, Mr. Damon visited villages in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and urban slums in Bangalore, talking to women and children who have benefited from the project.
The actor has shed all traces of his latest character — the bald, tattooed, gun-toting Max Da Costa desperate for salvation in Elysium. On his India tour, he was Matt Damon, the philanthropist fighting for clean water, a role he takes very seriously.
“Going out, doing these side visits and talking to women about how empowering and liberating this is for them is the funnest part,” Mr. Damon said in an interview in Mumbai on Monday. Instead of spending hours waiting to collect water, women can seek employment and earn an income.