Actor Matt Damon, famous as the hero of the three Bourne movies, is also the star of films such as The Departed and The Informant! But the Oscar winner spends a lot of time working for charitable causes. I got an allowance of $5 a week when I was a kid, but I never spent much money on anything. My mother was involved in all sorts of causes, and when I was about 12, I started sending a little bit every month to one of them. I learned then that you find one thing that matters to you, and it changes your whole mind-set.
Here’s something that matters to me right now. Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. I should probably repeat that: Every 15 seconds, a child dies because of a lack of clean water and sanitation. A billion people on our planet will never have a clean drink of water. There are 2.5 billion people in the world without toilet facilities. That kind of deprivation isn’t even on our radar in the U.S., but in Africa it’s the central preoccupation of many people’s lives. And the most devastating thing about it is that it takes so little to change it. Just $25 will give someone clean water for life—yes, just $25 will change someone’s future forever.
There’s so much need, it’s so hard to decide where to give. For me, I look at the organizations that are actually doing the work on the ground. I co-founded Water.org, which focuses on water and sanitation. I was in Ethiopia earlier this year, and I watched children taking filthy water out of a hand-dug well and putting it in bottles to take to school. The water was so dirty, it looked like chocolate milk. I wanted to knock it out of their hands and say, “Don’t drink that—it could kill you.” The dilemma is that drinking nothing at all will kill them even faster. Parents in these impoverished areas lose children every year to diseases that could be completely prevented if they had access to clean water.