August 12th, 2011
10:49 AM ET
Turning 40 is said to be like hitting the big 3-0 for the second time around, but for David Arquette, it’s also an opportunity to give back.
The actor, who will celebrate his 40th on September 8, has organized a "birthday giveback" to raise money to benefit Malaria No More, an organization on a mission to put a stop to malaria related deaths in Africa by 2015. Sumitomo Chemical, which makes the Olyset mosquito net, is matching each donation up to a total of $25,000.
“The campaign is about the gift of growing up,” Arquette tells CNN. “Because children are most susceptible to dying from malaria if they’re under 5 it’s a huge marker if a child in Africa makes it past 5 years old, that they’ll be able to live and thrive. So that’s sort of the idea behind this.”
To see for himself what Malaria No More has been doing, Arquette recently traveled to Senegal for five days.
"Senegal, it’s an amazing country. I’d never been to Africa before and it was an amazing experience,” he says. “I’ve always dreamed of going and I can’t wait to go back. The energy of the people and the spirit of the people...the light that comes from their souls is just really powerful.”
While there, he met with a variety of people, including one father who'd lost his 11-year-old daughter to malaria.
“He’s now set up this system where the women go around and make sure there’s no standing water so these mosquitoes [that spread malaria] can’t breed,” Arquette says. “They make sure that people are using their [mosquito] nets, and distributing them and making sure they’re tucked in properly. They’ve spread this educational program in such a way that within this area that represents about 50,000 people, they’ve almost eliminated malaria. Much of it started from one man’s passion and one man’s determination not to have another parent suffer the same pain that he has.”
Now that he’s returned to the States, Arquette says his life is “really focused on goals I want to achieve, projects that I have that are meaningful to me that help me to express my spirit, and helping others is a huge part of that."
The "Scream 4" star has also spent time in Haiti with his sister Patricia's organization GiveLove, which has been providing eco-friendly lavatories to schools, orphanages and camps in Haiti to assist with sanitation.
“It’s really easy to get sort of lost on what’s important," Arquette says. "And you go to places like Senegal and Haiti and you see people that really [don't] have a lot as far as material possessions go, but have so much when it comes to their spirit and how alive they are.”
And considering the past several months – Arquette has stayed in headlines after he and estranged wife Courteney Cox split up and he subsequently entered rehab – the now sober actor says the one thing he’s learned is to embrace life.
“One of the biggest life lessons for me is to be present, connected and aware. To be honest with myself, and to get real with my behavior [and] what I want out of life, which is to enjoy [it] and be able to laugh, be there for my daughter and my friends and family,” he says. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun, that I can’t enjoy life, that I can’t do things that I feel are ways of expressing my soul....I used to beat myself up about certain things, but I just have to be true to myself."
As far as his relationship with Cox, Arquette says their status hasn’t changed, and that they still remain friends.
“At some point we’ll have to make a decision about stuff, but we’re still in the self-discovery process,” he explains. “That’s a great example of figuring out what [our relationship] means to us and not really falling in to what society says it’s supposed to be. For us, we’re very honest with each other. We don’t really talk about other people, if we’re seeing other people or involved with other people. We’re allowed to see other people, but now we’re focusing on what our needs are, and if we’re compatible as a couple.”
This experience, he goes on, has led to him re-think what it means to be married.
“When we got separated, I had to sort of re-look at all that. So, I don’t know about marriage in the future, or other relationships,” Arquette says. "I know I love love…But you know, having a marriage not work definitely has you step back and re-evaluate stuff. One thing I don’t want to do is get back in my marriage or get involved with another person and lose myself again.”
Professionally, Arquette is staying busy – there’s a nightclub he’s planning that he’s hoping to launch this fall in Beverly Hills, and a pilot he and Cox recently shot for CBS called “Celebrity Name Game.”
"As goofy as it is, and as rampant as it is that people are building brands, I am trying to build a brand and my brand represents fun, laughter, lust for life, music, dancing, and celebration of the human experience," Arquette says. "Anything that I do from this point on will be a reflection of that, hopefully.”
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