I am trying out a new feature here on Filosofa’s Word. My Monday morning ‘no-politics’ column has become quite popular since I started it last year, and I have come to realize that, while the things I write and opine about are important and cannot be ignored, we all need a bit of a break from the serious stuff every now and again. So, I want to try a new Wednesday afternoon, mid-week post that will feature ‘good people doing good things’ around the world. Unlike the Monday morning post, I cannot promise Wednesday’s will be completely free of political issues, because often politics and global affairs are the reason people need to become philanthropists. But politics will not be the central focus. Hopefully I won’t run out of material after week #3! Please let me know your thoughts, and PLEASE … if you are aware of a person, family or NGO that is doing good things to make the world a better place … send me a suggestion!
I am kicking this experiment off today with a post about Bill and Melinda Gates, and their foundation called … Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)! Launched in 2000 BMGF is said to be the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. Their primary goals are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. Warren Buffett is the third trustee of the organization and has contributed generously from his own wealth. Bill Gates, as of 2013, had contributed $28 billion of his own money to the foundation! Buffett’s contributions, made in annual installments, have totaled $18.76 billion as of July 2015. The three trustees are fully invested in this venture, unlike other foundations that serve primarily as a pass-thru for donations taken from others and distributed to a cause.
A bit about Bill and Melinda. In 1975, along with Paul Allen, Bill Gates founded Microsoft Corporation, that today is the largest PC software company in the world. Since 1987, Gates has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people and was the wealthiest from 1995 to 2007, again in 2009, and has been since 2014. (Eat your heart out, Donald Trump!) His current wealth is estimated at $84.2 billion. In 2006, Gates stepped down from his day-to-day role at Microsoft in order to devote more of his time to the good works of his foundation. In addition to financial contributions to his own foundation, Gates has made significant contributions to other philanthropic organizations in the fields of science, medical research and education. Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Bill and Melinda met when she was employed at Microsoft in the 1990s, and the couple married in 1994. In addition to her work with the Gates Foundation, she has been involved with a number of other charitable works, including serving as chairperson for a campaign to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital and personally contributing $10 million to her former high school.
The foundation’s programs, grants and investments are far too numerous to list in this post, but in general, they are broken down into the following areas:
- Global Development Division – to combat extreme poverty through grants. Works include financial services for the poor, agricultural development, water/sanitation/hygiene, sanitation technology innovations, and other more specific causes, such as helping out after the 2004 earthquake in India.
- Global Health Division – major contributor to the Global Fund to Fight Aids. Other projects in this area include polio eradication, a children’s vaccine program, HIV research, working with World Health Organization (WHO) on tropical disease research, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
- United States Division – supports two primary initiatives: libraries and education. The foundation has given grants, installed computers and software, and provided training and technical support in partnership with public libraries nationwide in an effort to increase access and knowledge. The foundation has provided scholarships far too numerous to list, but also works with teachers’ unions, United Negro College Fund, and many other education-based organizations.
- Global Policy & Advocacy Division – is best defined by a statement from the foundation’s website: “Because our resources alone are not enough to advance the causes we care about, we engage in advocacy efforts to promote public policies that advance our work, build strategic alliances with governments and the public and private sectors, and foster greater public awareness of urgent global issues.”
The foundation has won numerous awards, and in 2016, President Barack Obama honored Bill and Melinda Gates with The Presidential Medal of Freedom for their philanthropic efforts.
Two things put the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation far and above many other philanthropic organizations:
- They do not merely solicit and collect donations, then distribute them to causes, but they have invested heavily of their own wealth. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have pledged to give away half their wealth over the course of their lifetime.
- The trustees of the foundation have invested more than just money. They give of themselves, their time, their energy. This is what many such organizations fail to do. If you are wealthy, it is not a huge sacrifice to give away money, but no matter who you are, or how wealthy, your time is your most valuable commodity, and Bill and Melinda Gates also give their time to overseeing their projects.
Two things made me decide to write about this particular foundation this week. First, after the confirmation of Betsy DeVos last week, I was looking at her family’s philanthropic works, and they cannot even hold a candle to the humanitarian causes supported by the Gates Foundation. DeVos family mainly donate, it seems, to politicians … politicians who seem compelled to take away from global humanitarian causes. My other reason was an article in the Guardian this morning:
“Trump’s ‘global gag rule’ could endanger millions of women and children, Bill and Melinda Gates warn”
The “global gag rule” imposed by Donald Trump, blocking US funds to any organisation involved in abortion advice and care overseas, could impact millions of women and girls, endangering their lives and those of their babies, Bill and Melinda Gates have warned.
The changes are expected to result in funding from the world’s biggest donor to family planning and women’s health programmes in the developing world being slashed. It could, Bill Gates told the Guardian, “create a void that even a foundation like ours can’t fill”.
I rest my case. In addition to the billions of dollars spent on humanitarian causes, and donations to other good works around the world, the BMGF has inspired others, such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to follow in their footsteps. Doing the small bit of research I did for this post was uplifting and gave me hope that we can still yet learn to help one another, that while we talk of the greed of big corporations, and that infamous ‘one percent’, there are people out there who want to be a part of solving the world’s problems, or at least do a small part to make the world a better place for humanity. Two thumbs up to Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett for their courage, hard work and generosity!
Note: I just realized, after working for 3 hours on this post, that today is, in fact, not Wednesday but Tuesday! Sheesh. Well, from this point forward, this will be a Wednesday afternoon feature. If I can remember what day it is.