The first walk :
The base of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) was laid out as spontaneously and naturally as the two spearheads of the Foundation practise philanthropy. The story goes back to 1993 when Bill and Melinda had taken a vacation to Africa, where they observed acute societal dysfunctioning and blatant women and child sufferings across the continent. That is when something struck them and while they were taking a walk on a beach in Zanzibar, they decided to employ their fortunes to make this world a better place to live in.
In 1994, the world witnessed the birth of William H. Gates Foundation, which later merged with Gates Learning Foundation to give way to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. As of December 31, 2018 BMGF has USD 50.1 million of grant payments against their name, with services in 138 countries. The key focus area of the Foundation is to nurture and facilitate progress in nutrition, education, family planning, vaccine delivery and poverty alleviation. In the true sense one cannot put a full stop there with conviction, as the Foundation goes beyond the aforementioned extent most of the times.
|The grant pie-chart of the Foundation|
The initiatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation :
Provision of vaccination has always been a key focus area for BMGF, wherein they see the opportunity to uplift the marginalized and poorly handled children and provide a concrete shape to their life vessel. This vision led to the formation of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance on the back of partnerships with World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank and UNICEF in 2000. Gavi has worked wonders since its inception and has been able to achieve significant advances in its establishment. The organization has managed to contribute to vaccination of more than 760 million unique children worldwide and in turn prevented 13 million pre-mature deaths of infants. Gavi has a strategic five year mission in place, ranging between 2016-2020, identified as Phase IV and it is all set to spend in excess of USD 9.5 billion in order to fund the cost of vaccine programmes in developing countries. Yes, the numbers are massive and inspiring but what is more impactful is their efforts and sentiments that the organization thrives on.
|Melinda Gates on the success of Gavi|
Towards HIV and AIDS:
Bill and Melinda in their Gates Notes, Annual Letter 2020 recall the scenario of the number of HIV cases which was on a steep rise in the sub-Saharan Africa when they had started out. The problem of HIV infection is terrifying and in all regards since the infection has a multiplier effect. There have been detailed articles about how the problem of AIDS and HIV can leave an entire African generation without parents. In 2002, BMGF supported the creation of The Global Fund, which aims to fight against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund has been an incredible success with unreal figures under its belt. Since its creation, there has been a 56% de-growth in AIDS related deaths and a 41% de-growth in HIV infections, in between 2000-2018. Out of the 23.3 million people on antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 18.9 million of them are backed by The Global Fund. These figures are testimony to their pursuit.
|Change in AIDS-related deaths Source: The Global Fund|
Towards family planning:
Family planning has become a fairly imperative and concerning issue at the global level, due to a sharp uptick in world population. Although the educated and the elite class of the society indulge in prudent family planning, the backward section does not recognize its importance or even if they do, they lack resources. Melinda in a TED interview explains the importance of the use of contraceptives and the preponderance of wise child birth spacing. Family planning not only leads to better financial position but also enables the parents to fend properly for their children, as far as education and nourishment are concerned. BMGF on field work discovered that near about 210 million women longed access to contraceptives but was unable to fetch one, due to political agenda in the US and other factors in different parts of the world which choked supplies. This situation was fought hard by the Foundation and they raised USD 2.6 billion in 2015 apropos to the issue and provided access to contraceptives to 40 million women. Their goal is to convert that number to 200 million.
|Family planning’s effect on population Source: NGM Staff, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation|
The outing in the field of education has been a tough and challenging one for BMGF. The reason being that the domain of education does not work on binaries and potentially has a grey space in between. Melinda says that in 2001 she met an educator named Deborah Meier, who inspired her to foray into the concerned field. Through Meier’s book, The Power of Their Ideas did Melinda meet with the importance of public schools and how they act as equalizers in a democracy. Melinda feels that the status quo is still failing American students and thereby makes the job of the Foundation tougher. In 1999, BMGF started with Gates Millennium Scholars Program which is a USD 1.6 billion initiative and has provided college scholarships to 20,000 students of color. The Foundation actively focuses on K-12 education, with grants of USD 240 million across 600 schools. Besides just monetary resources, BMGF also provides learning resources to teachers and students. One noticeable feature in the approach of Bill and Melinda towards education facilitation was that they shall not be the ones generating new ideas, but they shall be the ones to support ideas suggested by experienced educationists.
|The skewed education sector scenario|
The Warren Buffet element:
Something really unexpected and surprising took place on June 26, 2006. Warren E. Buffet pledged 10 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway which qualifies to be as much as 80% of his fortunes. The first year contribution stood at USD 1.5 billion. These are big numbers and one is naturally not surprised because of that name. It came as a surprise to many, as the race to be the America’s richest individual ended in philanthropy winning. This goes to tell us that, certainly handling wealth is an art and does not stop at just earning it. To quote Buffet-
‘Working through the Foundation, both of you have applied truly unusual intelligence, energy and heart to improving the lives of millions of fellow humans who have not been as lucky as the three of us. You have done this without regard to color, gender, religion or geography. I am delighted to add to the resources with which you carry on this work.’
The harmonious partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
When Melinda and Bill started out, there were questions in place as to how it would be difficult for them to work together, since it would culminate into a mixture of personal and professional life and how the societal narrative has inhibitions towards the co-working of a married couple. The 20 year old up and running Foundation conveys a bold message and defies the very narrative. Bill and Melinda have set an exemplary example in terms of co-working in a setup which they share and how beautiful the journey can be with your partner. Melinda says that they share a ‘collaborative relationship’ and the journey has been full of learning. She says that, ‘I always know when I come home Bill is going to be interested in what I learnt’ and she is equally interested to learn from Bill’s day at work. It’s only natural for one to adore the impeccable camaraderie and understanding, between the two of them.
My take on Bill and Melinda gates foundation:
It is overwhelming to know what Bill and Melinda are doing for the society and with such consistent as well as transparent efforts. The BMGF in the true sense is a piece of humanity and reinstates our belief in true human sentiments. They both were naïve and inexperienced when they started with the Foundation and have remained committed ever since to the cause. According to me, the Foundation is an impeccable manifestation of wealth and the skill of using it. We must also understand the importance of philanthropy and the sense of completeness it brings along. With a yawning income disparity prevalent among various strata of society the least one can do is be a reason for a family’s nutrition and education. They both were inspired by the words of Bill’s mother, ‘Your lifetime together will, in the end, be a verdict on your recognition of the extraordinary obligations which accompany extraordinary resources’ which were said on their wedding day. No doubt they consider the Foundation to be the most satisfying thing they have done in their lives.
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