By Elizabeth Willoughby on
The stars of “Ocean’s Thirteen” recently raised over $9 million, and within three weeks donated over $5 million of it to various charities in Sudan’s Darfur region. Most of the money was contributed to the Ocean’s stars’ humanitarian organization, Not On Our Watch, during the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. George Clooney and his co-stars created Not On Our Watch to bring global attention to the plight of the people of Darfur where over 200,000 people have died since 2003 in a rebellion between local rebels and the Sudanese government, and 2.5 million civilians have fled their homes.
The first donation by Not On Our Watch was $2.75 million to the International Rescue Committee. A further $750,000 went to Oxfam, $1 million to Save the Children, and now their latest donation of $1 million to the U.N. World Food Programme will deliver food and other necessities by helicopter to remote villages in Darfur.
Clooney was so impressed by the fundraising success of Not On Our Watch that he plans to turn every film festival into a charity drive for the cause. After filming a documentary about the genocide in Sudan, he has become a leading advocate for action. “There are only a few things we can do – protect them where we can, and provide food, water, health care and counseling,” he says.
Ocean’s co-star Matt Damon is also looking at other areas of Africa. Earlier this year he met a young girl in Zambia who, while they walked the two miles to the closest water source, said that she wanted to become a nurse. He writes, “It was clear to me at that moment that if this well were not there for her, she would never even be able to entertain the concept of planning for the future—she would have been trying to survive just for that day.”
After witnessing the extreme poverty and the value of clean drinking water in Zambia and South Africa, Damon decided to get involved in the Running the Sahara project.
Damon and colleagues, including Oscar™ winning filmmaker James Moll, started the charitable component of Running the Sahara, called H2O Africa, to raise awareness for clean water programs on the continent. Then they documented the Running the Sahara expedition, in which three men run over 4,300 miles (6,920 kilometres) from the Atlantic coast of Senegal, through Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Libya, to the Red Sea in Egypt. They run for 111 days.
Narrated by Damon, the film crew follows the runners crossing the desert, braving extreme elements and meeting the unique people of the Sahara who are struggling with immense daily challenges.
The World Health Organization estimates that the lack of safe drinking water kills almost 4,500 children per day, mostly under the age of five. The documentary will premiere this fall.
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