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Matt Damon News Column
New press release about Zambia visit
  • A new press release about Matt's visit to Zambia is now available here. A photo is also available courtesy of J. Tayloe Emery/Data (low resolution below, high resolution also available here).

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    Matt Damon Visits Africa With DATA And ONE.Org
    5/9/2006 12:43:00 PM

    WASHINGTON, May 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Academy Award winner Matt Damon recently returned from a listening and learning trip to Africa organized by Africa advocacy group DATA (debt AIDS trade Africa) and ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History ( http://www.one.org ). Damon focused his 6-day trip in Zambia where he observed firsthand how American funding to fight global AIDS and extreme poverty and international cooperation are saving and transforming lives in Africa.

    "Matt is a smart guy who knows his stuff," said Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA. "We're thrilled that Matt has joined with DATA and ONE to give a voice to the more than one billion around the world living on less than one dollar a day."

    On his trip, Damon visited numerous sites demonstrating both the symptoms of and solutions to extreme poverty and global disease. Among the sites he visited were a micro credit programme sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, an organic cotton farm sponsored by the African Development Foundation, as well as an HIV/AIDS clinic jointly funded by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

    "To see so much hope from people who have so little made this an inspiring and life changing journey for me," said Damon. "The promises America and other rich countries have made to Africa must be more than words. Those promises need to put hopeful children in school; help parents put roofs over the heads of their children; and get life saving AIDS medicines to the patients who need them now."

    In 2005, DATA arranged an Africa trip for ONE spokesperson Brad Pitt resulting in an ABC Primetime special on extreme poverty in Africa and facilitated the lobbying efforts of ONE spokesperson George Clooney at the G8 Summit in Scotland resulting in a doubling of aid to Africa.

    Photo caption: Academy Award winner Matt Damon meets with AIDS survivors at a Zambian AIDS clinic in Africa funded by PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

  • Update: As reported at this blog, an email from Matt (but probably written mostly by one.org of course) has been sent to subscribers on the one.org list - join at this link: www.one.org.

    Don't let the Senate cut billions of dollars from the fight against AIDS and poverty
    From actor Matt Damon for the ONE Campaign:

    I just returned from a 7 day trip to South Africa and Zambia. What I saw changed my life. I want to tell you about my trip and let you know about billions of dollars in development assistance that is at risk this week.

    Each day, I saw the devastating impact of AIDS and extreme poverty, but I also saw the incredible work being done to save lives and give people the tools to provide for themselves. I visited a facility that reduced, by half, the chances of a mother transmitting HIV to their child. I met a 24 year old woman who told me that there was a good chance the anti-retrovirals she was taking would save the her baby's life. The next day, I met a widow who had become self-sufficient thanks to a micro-finance loan. With her new financial freedom, she was not only able to take care of her children, but also began caring for local orphans.

    The biggest lesson I took home from the trip was that folks in these countries can turn things around if given the basic resources that we take for granted here every day. That's why I was shocked to learn from the ONE campaign that within the next 2 weeks the U.S. Senate is poised to slash billions of dollars from President Bush's plan to fight AIDS and poverty.

    This is an outrage - and it can be stopped. Please join me in speaking out right now!

    The second day of the trip, I met children at an orphan care center in Zambia who had HIV\AIDS. Most of them couldn't remember their parents because they died of AIDS when they were only babies. Frederick, an HIV positive father showed me something called a "Memory Book." A scrapbook with pictures and stories about him he was putting together for his son so he would have something to remember him with after they he was gone. About 650,000 children in Zambia are AIDS orphans. They play "Duck, Duck, Goose" and "London Bridge" just like kids around the world, but without help; the problems they face are only going to get much worse. We can't let Congress cut funding that provides critical assistance to kids like these all across Africa.

    Senators Mike DeWine (R) and Dianne Feinstein (D) have written a letter to their colleagues in the Senate asking them to stop these devastating cuts in funding for the fight against AIDS and extreme poverty. With just 30 seconds of your time, you can send a quick note to your Senators asking them to support this funding and add their signature to this important letter.

    The work we are doing on the ONE Campaign will change the world. It already has. Let's keep up the pressure and make sure they know we won't let billions of dollars in cuts to the President's request for the world's poor go unnoticed.

    Ask your Senator to support critical development assistance

    Matt Damon
    P.S. Click here to join communities around the world for the AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 21.
  • 2 comments or Leave a comment
    From: (Anonymous) Date: May 10th, 2006 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)

    This makes me love him more =)

    I have said this once and I will say it again that I think what he is doing is really amazing. It's wonderful to see people with power and assertion do great things with their time and their money. Hopefully more people can participate and join the cause to help people in need. Keep up the great work!!!
    From: (Anonymous) Date: May 12th, 2006 05:40 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: This makes me love him more =)

    I agree to all that!!
    I've been to Africa before helping people and seeing what its like, its really great, wonderful people glad i did it, hopefully do it again.
    But i see what you mean - yep Keep up the great work exactly!

    ~ Cass
    2 comments or Leave a comment