- Melinda Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, said a woman from an Indian village once told her that she had no hope for her sons’ future because the family was so poor.
- The woman essentially asked Gates to raise her children for her, a moment Gates described as “heartbreaking” during an interview with Business Insider US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell.
- Gates said she saw that moment as a turning point and went on to make family planning a major initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Melinda Gates is one of the world’s wealthiest people and most active philanthropists.
She has run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for 20 years and made about 60 trips to impoverished areas, where she meets with locals to better understand the needs of the communities and how her money can help.
One particularly powerful moment happened on a trip to India, where she met with a local woman, Meena. Gates described the moment in her latest book, “The Moment of Lift,” and in an interview with Business Insider’s US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell.
Meena had given birth to her second child a few weeks prior. Toward the end of the conversation, Gates asked Meena about her hopes and dreams for her new son.
Meena grew silent and looked down at the floor for a long time. She then explained, while holding her newborn, that her family was so poor that she did not have any hopes for his future at all. She had no idea how she would feed or educate them.
Then Meena said, “My only hope would be if you took him home with you.”
Meena pointed to her other child. “Him too.”
Gates was stunned. She apologised and said she couldn’t do that.
“The pain she described was beyond anything I could imagine – she felt the only way to help her children live a good life was to find them another mother,” Gates wrote.
Gates said the trip marked a “turning point” in her work, when the philanthropist decided to increase access to family-planning medicines in impoverished nations. Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to bring high-quality contraceptive services to 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020.
“I’m there as a Western woman in a pair of khaki pants and a T-shirt, and she just knows that life will be better for her son… she thought their lives would be better if I took them back to the United States,” Gates told Business Insider.
“It’s heartbreaking to be in these situations and to see parents who are doing their absolute best but because of their circumstances can’t feed and educate their kids,” she said. “And I think that’s something we can do something about as a world – and we should do something about it.”
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