Feel better, millennials -- Matt Damon says his generation was terrible
"My generation had our heads up our own asses. That was Gen X. Today's generation is so much smarter and interested in fixing these issues," he told journalists at the Sundance Film Festival this week.
The issue the "Bourne Identity" actor is interested in is a water crisis that has left 663 million people without access to clean, drinking water. Damon spoke of becoming a co-founder of Water.org in 2009, a nonprofit that delivers microfinance loans to water-deprived communities.
Women often bear the brunt of the water crisis, Damon explained, having to walk long distances to bring water to their families—time that could be spent at school or work. During a visit to Zambia, Damon said he was particularly inspired by a 14-year-old girl, whose dreams of big city success reminded him of his own early days.
After Damon asked if she planned to stay in her small village, she responded, "No, I'm going to go to the big city, Lusaka. I'm going to become a nurse."
Damon loved her spunk.
"Something about her reminded me of Ben Affleck and myself when we were teenagers. It was like us saying, we're going to go to New York City and become actors," Damon said, laughing.
Jokes aside, he noted that her dreams could only be possible because she had access to clean water.
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"It just struck me that if this well was not a mile away from her house, she'd spend most of her day scavenging for water, instead of going to school," he said.
That's why the Oscar-nominated actor announced a new campaign, "Buy a Lady a Drink," in partnership with the Belgian brewery Stella Artois, which focuses on water and women in the developing world.
Damon said that they needed an initiative that would simplify a very complex issue. Hence for each Stella Artois chalice purchased, which feature women-centric designs by artists in Kenya, Peru, and Haiti, Water.org will receive funds to provide clean water to an individual for 5 years.
Damon started Water.org with Gary White, and the two have traveled around the world together and promoted an alternative to charity.
"Gary is too modest to talk about this. But water credit has been revolutionary," Damon said, nudging his co-founder.
Instead of personally digging wells and planting water infrastructure in communities, Damon and White provide loans that enable locals to build the facilities themselves. To date, they say they've provided 3 million people with water credits, more than 90 percent of which go to women. The repayment rates are 99 percent, he said.
Why water, though, of all the issues that Damon could support? "It's a wonderfully bipartisan issue and there are solutions that show that it can work. That's what people want, despite the politics—stuff that works."
See more of TakePart's interview with Matt Damon (and his spot-on impression of former president Bill Clinton):
Look at the beautiful reaction this woman had to something we all take for granted:
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