Matt Damon and Michael Douglas were awarded the Danny Kaye Humanitarian award at the 2013 UNICEF ball this month. The Danny Kaye award stems from late actor Danny Kaye, who was UNICEF’s first Global Ambassador in 1954.
Kaye was a beloved comedic Actor to Hollywood but a strong advocate to children. Kaye had been quoted saying “if children are healthy and have care and education, surely they will be more effective adults, and maybe, just maybe, make the world a better place.”
Michael Douglas was honored for his strong leadership and advocacy roles with the United Nations. Douglas became United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998. Over the years Douglas has brought attention to the rise in child soldiers in Sierra Leone through a UN film “Child Soldiers.”
Throughout the documentary Douglas interviews former soldiers, as well as helps children reunite with their loved ones. Many child soldiers are kidnapped by rebel groups and endure inhumane conditions while with them. Douglas is also a strong advocate for weapons control and nuclear disarmament, and continues to help the UN’s mission of peace and security.
Matt Damon was awarded for his strong advocacy efforts toward the need for clean water around the world. Damon co-founded water.org, an organization that helps people in developing nations gain access to clean water through loan assistance programs.
“Every 20 seconds a little kid, a child dies because they lack access to clean water and sanitation, every 20 seconds,” Damon states in an interview with CNN.
One way the program works is by giving communities loans so they can gain access to clean affordable water either by building wells or putting water pipes directly in villager’s homes. Having the opportunity to have water nearby allows villagers, especially women and children, extra time for education and career training.
Facts from water.org show millions of hours per day are spent collecting water from wells many miles from villager’s homes.
“It’s not just about the millions of children who actually die every year, it’s about the quality of life that somebody can have if they have access to clean water” states Damon, after speaking to a girl who is able to play and be a child again , instead of spending that time collecting water for her family.
These men have been great humanitarians throughout the years and will continue to advocate for children and families for years to come. It’s through their efforts along with thousands of other great humanitarians why the world is changing and becoming a place of peace and freedom.
– Amy Robinson