New NGO brings water, economic hope to south Asia

NEW YORK, NY, July 21, 2009 -- Earlier this month, Water.org co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White visited Kothampatti in the Tamil Nadu state of India to meet with its local implementing partners, residents of villages, and entrepreneurs about the early success of Water.org's WaterCredit initiative and its ripple effects in the local economy...

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• Visit by co-founder Matt Damon highlights early success of microfinance solutions

NEW YORK, NY, July 21, 2009 -- Earlier this month, Water.org co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White visited Kothampatti in the Tamil Nadu state of India to meet with its local implementing partners, residents of villages, and entrepreneurs about the early success of Water.org's WaterCredit initiative and its ripple effects in the local economy.

It is common in this part of Asia for women to form self-help groups to address the challenge of raising families and establishing economic security. Over the past several years, WaterCredit has enabled hundreds of self-help groups to match their need for safe water and sanitation with access to fair and affordable microfinance solutions, funding both in-home water supply and toilet construction.

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Water.org co-founders Gary White and Matt Damon discuss the water crisis with Mrs. T. Nanda Vardhan, secretary with Water.org's local partner SIDUR, in a slum of Hyderabad, India. Photo: Business Wire.
WaterCredit helps those it serves to take personal responsibility for their water and sanitation needs, builds creditworthiness for future loans, and helps create demand for new services. Damon and White visited the area and met with the 12-member Sri Kirshna women's self-help group whose successful credit record, established thanks to WaterCredit, allowed them to capitalize on a business opportunity. Sri Kirshna secured a $7,500 loan to open a cinder block manufacturing business that furnishes building materials for latrines.

"These women are testaments to not only the viability of microfinance in the water sector but they also form the foundation of future economic growth in these regions," said Gary White, executive director of Water.org. White continued, "Our early funding from Open Square Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, along with more recent funding from PepsiCo Foundation, has empowered these women to not just become entrepreneurs but to also set an example of what can happen through innovative solutions and partnerships."

While in India, Damon and White also visited sites in Tiruchirappalli and Hyderabad to review on-going projects in densely populated slum areas. Meeting the safe water challenge here also includes a measurable sanitation and hygiene education component which is delivered by Water.org and its local partners.

Water.org is a non-profit organization whose founders have transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, Water.org works with local partners to deliver innovative solutions for long-term success. Its microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative is pioneering sustainable giving in the sector.

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