Matt Damon says Ben Affleck is 'like a brother' and they both went through a hard time when his father died

Matt Damon is opening up about his father’s death and how he and Ben Affleck supported each other during a very difficult time.

The actor, 47, said that his longtime friend is “like a brother” to him and that Affleck, 45, was just as affected by his father Kent’s death last year.

“The guy is like a brother to me and there are ups and downs in life,” Damon told PEOPLE at the launch of the and Stella Artois “Water Ripples” exhibit in New York Thursday. “It was a bad year for him, too. He was very, very close to my father, they had a great relationship. Loved each other a lot. So last year was no real picnic for him either.”

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
| Credit: Todd Williamson/Getty

Damon spoke to PEOPLE at the unveiling of an innovative installation presented by Stella Artois and The actor and his cofounder Gary White are continuing their partnership with the beer brand to celebrate World Water Day. Helping solve the world water crisis is a project Damon has been involved with for decades and is hoping partnerships like this help spread the word about the need for action.

“Half the battle for us is just trying to get people to understand how serious this issue is and how enormous it is and that there are solutions in place that can really move the needle significantly,” Damon said. and Stella Artois are currently offering a special promotion for those who purchase a limited-edition chalice — for every one sold, Stella Artois will help Damon’s organization provide five years of clean water for one person in the developing world.

Stella Artois And Celebrate Impact And Raise Awareness Of Their Partnership To Help End Global Water Crisis With Interactive Art Installation - "Water Ripples" By Stella Artois - In Grand Central Terminal
Matt Damon with Gary White
| Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty

The philanthropic issue is a personal one for Damon, as his mother Nancy instilled the importance of helping others when he was young. The actor said he hopes to pass that trait along to his children with wife Luciana — Alexia, 18, Isabella, 11, Gia, 9, and 7-year-old Stella — and that the cause has become even more important to him as a parent.

“I think in general once you have children it’s hard not to see every child as your own,” Damon said. “It’s like when people used to show me baby pictures I never wanted to see them, and then I had a baby and now I’m interested in everybody’s baby pictures.”

He continued, “So when we’re out in the field and we’re meeting these kids, I think it’s impossible not to see your own kid in their eyes when you’re talking to them. Children have that common innocence that is so beautiful, so to know that there are kids out there suffering because they don’t have this access is definitely something that keeps us pushing.”

“Water Ripples” by Stella Artois will be open to the public in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall through March 26, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily.