NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Theirs are some of the most recognisable names in the world; initially for their contribution to computing as we know it today and increasingly, for their philanthropic initiatives.
Just as tied to the Microsoft identity as Bill Gates is (and to the Forbes rich list); it’s getting increasingly harder and harder not to think Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when reference is made to the efforts to eradicate TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDS.
Part of a wider effort to see, “the death of a child in the developing world be just as rare as the death of a child in the rich world,” as stated in Bill and Melinda’s Annual Letter on the Foundation.
This year’s letter is addressed to another whose name bears the same ring of familiarity: Warren Buffet.
Buffet who a decade ago made a pledge to the Gates Foundation and four others, encouraged Bill and Melinda – in recognition of their name brand power – to in a sense speak to the ‘return’ on philanthropy.
“Your foundation will always be in the spotlight. It’s important, therefore, that it be well understood. There are many who want to know where you’ve come from, where you’re heading and why,” he wrote in a letter to them in December.
It’s this that the Gates sought to capture in their annual letter this year; as explained subsequently to Capital FM News in an exclusive phone interview with Melinda.
The journey of the Gates Foundation began back in the 90s, inspired by the African continent on a trip Bill and Melinda took before they were married. “The animals and the scenery were great but what stuck with us were the people,” Melinda told Capital FM News.
Perhaps more accurately, it was needless suffering of the people that stuck with them as enunciated in their letter to Buffet in a passage written by Bill: “We were startled by the poverty. When we came back, we began reading about what we’d seen. It blew our minds that millions of children in Africa were dying from diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. Kids in rich countries don’t die from these things. The children in Africa were dying because they were poor. To us, it was the most unjust thing in the world.”
An injustice they have since been working to remedy in collaboration with global partners. “No. I didn’t expect it (the Foundation) would get so big,” Melinda told Capital FM News. “But it sort of grew as we better appreciated the need.”