Damon, co-founder of a global wa­ter char­ity, hails the way Ak­shay has spot­lighted open defe­ca­tion

HT City - - Front Page - Neha Sharma neha.sharma@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Hol­ly­wood star Matt Damon and Bol­ly­wood star Ak­shay Ku­mar have some­thing in com­mon — apart from their global fan fol­low­ing. Ak­shay’s re­cent hit, Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha deals with open defe­ca­tion in In­dia, an is­sue that Damon’s non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, Wa­ter.org, has been ad­dress­ing for years now.

In an ex­clu­sive chat with us, Damon says he’s de­lighted that Ak­shay de­cided to high­light this is­sue in a film. “It’s great to have stars like Ak­shay and films like Toi­let: Ek Prem Katha spot­light­ing the open defe­ca­tion cri­sis, as it helps to drive more aware­ness of not only the is­sues but also what can be done to cre­ate change. Our or­gan­i­sa­tion, Wa­ter.org, is ded­i­cated to end­ing open defe­ca­tion glob­ally.”

Damon con­tin­ues, “I have seen first-hand the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on health, the threat to women and chil­dren, and the con­tam­i­na­tion of safe drink­ing wa­ter from open defe­ca­tion. It’s clear to me that a per­son can­not thrive and reach their full po­ten­tial with­out first hav­ing ac­cess to safe wa­ter to drink, and the dig­nity of a san­i­tary toi­let.”

The ac­tor last vis­ited In­dia in 2013 to mon­i­tor the Wa­ter. org projects here. At that time, he was ap­par­ently fas­ci­nated by the mas­sive in­flu­ence of In­dian movie stars, and he en­joyed the spicy In­dian food, too. But what he re­mem­bers most clearly is his in­ter­ac­tion with peo­ple, and he’s look­ing for­ward to com­ing back.

“The peo­ple in the cities and vil­lages of In­dia were gra­cious and wel­com­ing,” says Damon. “Meet­ing with peo­ple in Chen­nai, Mum­bai, and Ban­ga­lore, I lis­tened to them tell me [about] their wish to have toi­lets.” He also met those who were helped by Wa­ter.org with build­ing their own toi­lets. “[They] were very proud to show them to us,” says Damon. “This is what sticks out for me… peo­ple want their own bath­rooms; to feel safe, clean, and to have their pri­vacy pro­tected. While I do not have a date for my next trip, I am look­ing for­ward to vis­it­ing In­dia again soon.”

A per­son can­not reach their full po­ten­tial with­out... the dig­nity of a san­i­tary toi­let MATT DAMON, AC­TOR

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