Matt Damon has never been shy when it comes to speaking out about the global water crisis, but Water.org's -- as he calls it -- "marriage" with Stella Artois gives millennials a really easy way to get involved: drink some beer.
Today is World Water Day, something we here in the West don't tend to pay all that much attention to, but there's a giant art installation at the World Trade Center Oculus that's, at the very least, making New Yorkers take notice.
Conceived by Snarkitecture in partnership with creative agency Mother New York, "The Water Clouds by Stella Artois" is a visual representation of the ongoing "Buy A Lady A Drink" campaign, which Stella launched three years ago to help Water.org provide clean water to people in the developing world.
Since January, over 125,000 chalices have been sold, meaning water has been supplied to over 125,000 people in need.
The overarching goal? This year, Water.org and Stella Artois announced a commitment to provide 3.5 million people in the developing world with access to clean water by 2020. A major part of that is obviously getting the word out.
At the unveiling of the installation today, Water.org Co-Founders Matt Damon and Gary White sat down for a discussion with Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Speaking on the importance of awareness, Damon said,
I think one of the big hurdles we have to clear in the West is just explaining the problem to people because it's so hard for us to relate to. Here in the States, a clean glass of water is only a few feet away at any given time. In fact, the water in our toilet bowls is actually cleaner than over 600 million people have access to. So it's very hard for us to understand this problem and the magnitude of it.
A child under the age of 5 dies every 90 seconds due to lack of clean water, something Damon called "unconscionable" and "completely preventable." The goal of Water.org, though, is about more than just preventing these heartbreaking deaths.
In communities with little access to clean water, it's the women and girls who bear the burden of collection. This means education often comes second for young girls, robbing them of a childhood -- and a future.
Damon told the story of the very first water collection trip he ever went on. He said,
I love this story because I remember this girl -- this was over 10 years ago -- but she was 14 years old, and we walked about a mile together as I was kind of grilling her through this interpreter. I asked if she was going to stay in this village, we were in a very rural village in Zambia, and she kind of said, 'No, no, no I'm going to go to the big city. I'm going to be a nurse in the big city of Lusaka.' She had this twinkle in her eye and it reminded me of Ben Affleck and I saying, when we were 14, 'We're going to go to the big city of New York and we're going to be actors and we're going to make it.' And that should be what's happening at that age... dreams. It didn't strike me until I was driving away after having this really nice connection with this kid that had someone not had the foresight to sink a borewell a mile from her home she would be out scavenging for water. She wouldn't be coming home from school, she would be kind of consigned and resigned to this really awful life of just surviving from one day to the next.
When you listen to stories like that it's easy to want to help and get involved, which is what make this partnership so fruitful.
"At the end of the day, people want to help others, especially millennial consumers, they just don't know how," said Brito, "and whenever offered a way to do it, they engage, they jump in, and they become fans, and they do it."
Damon couldn't agree more about this generation of young adults. “That's exactly right, and these millennials are gonna save us all," he replied.
I do believe, my generation -- Generation X -- we were completely out to lunch, like we didn't understand any of this stuff and these millennials really do give us all hope.
Co-founder and CEO of Water.org, Gary White, explained the mission of the company and how it's really about more than just charity -- it's about helping people be the source of their own solution.
Through Water.org's water credit program and a new online funding system that will be launched later this year, there are tangible ways to help with the crisis and actually be the generation who ends it.
Stella Artois' commitment to this campaign certainly drives the message home in a millennial-friendly way, and 46-year-old Damon put this partnership in words all happy hour enthusiasts can really understand.
It's a really wonderful kind of model... Like if you walk into a bar and order a Stella you're getting somebody clean water for a year in the developing world. How amazing would that be, right? To go in and you're out with your friends on a Friday night and you buy a round, and you… buy a lady drink… and you're buying a lady a drink on the other side of the world.
You can honor World Water Day today by buying a Limited-Edition Stella Chalice.
To learn more about the global water crisis and put a face to the women in these developing countries, tune in to Stella Artois and National Geographic's new documentary “Our Dream of Water” on March 22 at 6 pm EST on National Geographic. An encore presentation will also air on March 23 at 3 pm EST.