Matt Damon urges funding for AIDS assistance overseas
By Natasha T. Metzler, Associated Press Writer, May 10, 2006
WASHINGTON --Actor Matt Damon is back from a trip to Africa with a passion for fighting AIDS and praise for President Bush's relief program.
"The work that's being done and the people that I met who are on the front lines there, I just came away feeling like we're going to beat this," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Cambridge, Mass. native returned April 29 from a six-day trip to Africa. He spent most of his time there in Zambia, which had an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 16.5 percent in 2003, according to the CIA's World Factbook. The U.S. prevalence rate was 0.6 percent in 2003.
Damon visited a number of sites including a clinic sponsored by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an independent charity.
"You walk into these clinics; you're surrounded by people who are alive and well because of the president's plan and because of this money," he said.
Damon's trip was organized by the DATA Foundation, a nonprofit Africa advocacy group, and the ONE Campaign, a coalition of groups working to fight AIDS and poverty.
Photo caption: This undated image made available by the DATA Foundation shows American actor Matt Damon, left, in a field in Chongwe, Zambia, speaking with an organic cotton farmer. Damon returned April 29, 2006 from a six-day trip to Africa with a passion for fighting AIDS and praise for President Bush's relief program. (AP Photo/DATA Foundation, J. Tayloe Emery) From Meighan Stone email@example.com
Here's what Matt had to say:
"To see so much hope from people who have so little made this an inspiring and life changing journey for me. 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."
His visit to Africa draws attention to the need of so many around the world (over one billion!) who are living on less than $1 a day. This is something that we here in the Unites States - and in wealthy countries around the world - have an opportunity to change. With the support of people like Matt Damon and the 2 million other ONE Campaign supporters across the country, we are helping to make poverty history.
American actor Matt Damon was in Zambia recently to visit a UNDP/UNV poverty reduction project as part of a listening and learning trip on efforts to fight extreme poverty in Africa.
Damon’s five-day trip in early May was sponsored by DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), the Africa advocacy group co-founded by U2 lead singer Bono. The joint UNDP/UNV project was the only UN initiative visited by Damon and his older brother Kyle.
During the Damons’ stop in Chongwe, they met project manager Rashidull Alam. Nicknamed ‘Rashid', the Bangladeshi UN Volunteer heads up the project, providing hands-on assistance to the implementing NGOs and directly to the women’s groups. Before joining UNV in January 2004, Rashid worked for 15 years with the Grameen Bank in his home country.
The Damons also sat with one women’s group to learn of the project’s impact. The women shared the reality of life before the project and the changes that have since come about. "Before we could afford to eat only one meal per day, and that was lunch," said the group’s leader Catherine Miwanda. "Now we can feed our families whole – three times a day." Another bank client expressed pride in having enough money to send her children and several orphans she looks after to school. "And it’s not just that we send the children to school, when they come home from school, they are teaching us how to read and write," the woman added.
Photo caption: Actor Matt Damon visiting the UNDP/UNV poverty reduction project in Chongwe, Zambia. (Photo: Veera Virmasalo)