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Matt Damon: Seeing extreme poverty as a teenager had a 'profound effect on me'

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The water crisis is massively complex and hugely important: Matt Damon

When he's not spending time in front of, or behind the camera, actor Matt Damon is raising awareness about the water crisis that's affecting people across the globe.

In 2009, Damon teamed up with Gary White to launch Water.org, a charity dedicated to delivering safe water and sanitation to everyone. Today, the group has been able to empower over 16 million people, by providing access to clean water and hygiene.

So, where did Damon's drive to promote water equality for everyone come from? Put simply: his upbringing, the actor recently told CNBC.

"I think a lot of it came from my parents. My mother did take me to Mexico and to Guatemala and I did get to see extreme poverty up close as a teenager and that had a profound effect on me," the award-winning actor told CNBC's Tania Bryer at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos, Switzerland.

Damon explained how much of an impact travel has had on him growing up, as it gave him the chance to see how other people and nations lived.

US actor Matt Damon speaks (L) next to co-founder and CEO of Water.org, Gary White, as he takes part in a meeting at the World Economic Forum, on January 17, 2017 in Davos.
FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images

As a result, he's been looking into passing this tradition on to his own children, so they can witness realities that they may not be accustomed to.

"My wife and I are trying to do that with our kids, because it's very hard as a child to understand the world outside of your own little neighborhood. So, that's a real privilege that we have — to share that with them."

Raising awareness

Damon personally finds it "odd" for people to suddenly know who he is and for him to have a platform; therefore, he says he wants to utilize his privilege to raise greater awareness about key issues that may not directly impact the Western world.

"I chose this issue because it's massively complex. It's interesting. It's hugely important. It undergirds all of these issues of extreme poverty and nobody in the West is really talking about it and so it felt like the right (thing to do)."

By attending events like the WEF Forum, Damon uses his platform to promote these issues, rather than draw focus on his acting — and in recent years, corporations have gradually become more involved. He explained how social responsibility has been pushed further to the front of corporate agendas, and therefore change is happening — for the better.

"It's different from four years ago. These companies, they really are (caring about social responsibility) — and that's about the consumers moving them in that direction. It matters to consumers. It matters to millennials — like the partnership we have with Stella Artois, they are putting very real money behind this, because it matters to the people, it matters to their consumers, " said Damon.

He added that this has become a "wonderful thing" as everyone can have "a voice in this conversation."

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Here's how Matt Damon is helping fight the world's water crisis
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