Bill Gates urges wealthy Chinese to help the poor

Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Monday took to the pages of the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, to encourage people in China to do more for the poor.

“China has many successful entrepreneurs and business people. I hope that more people of insight will put their talents to work to improve the lives of poor people in China and around the world, and seek solutions for them,” Gates wrote in an editorial.

Philanthropy in China has yet to take off, as some wealthy Chinese fear generous donations could invite unwanted attention on their fortunes. China ranks towards the bottom of the list of countries where people give money to charity, volunteer or help a stranger, according to The World Giving Index, compiled by the Charities Aid Foundation.

The editorial by Gates comes just days after the founders of Chinese internet company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd announced the establishment of a charitable trust which will focus on the environment and health, and could be worth as much as $3 billion, making it one of the biggest in Asia.

Reports in the past two years by the New York Times and Bloomberg News have chronicled the accumulation of spectacular wealth among family members of some of China’s top Communist Party leaders.

[Reuters]

A big step forward for Chinese philanthropy

The billionaire co-founder of Alibaba.com has set up charitable trusts ahead of the company’s highly anticipated IPO, a move that could mark the start of a new era of Chinese philanthropy.

Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, along with current CEO Joe Tsai, said Friday that they have established two trusts funded by share options worth about 2% of the company. The philanthropic effort will initially benefit environmental, medical, education and cultural causes in China, according to a statement.

Ma said he established the trusts because “concern and complaints cannot change the current situation. … We must assume responsibility and take action to improve the environment that our children will inherit,” he said.

The establishment of the trusts makes Ma one of China’s first billionaires to set up a major philanthropic endeavor, and puts him in the ranks other successful executives who have pledged large portions of the fortunes to charity. Three of those — Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — praised Ma’s decision.

[CNN] 

Does Foreign Aid Work?

Fareed Zakaria speaks with Helene Gayle, president of CARE USA, and Bill Easterly, professor of economics at New York University, about whether foreign aid is effective. Some excerpts:

The context here is Bill Gates did his annual letter in which he argued that our foreign aid has been astonishingly effective and that people should stop attacking it.  One of the people who has attacked it and whom Gates mentions by name often when he makes this point is Bill Easterly. So, Bill, what is your response to Gates’ basic argument?

Easterly: Well, you know what sends me at the moment is that foreign aid is really on the wrong side of the debate that we see going on right now in the world between freedom and autocracy.  And we see, too often, the aid agencies and the philanthropists, like even Mr. Gates himself, siding with the autocrats in many poor countries against the poor people who are rising up, seeking their own freedom.

Gayle: I think the case has been made that aid is very effective and that being able to provide resources in the right way makes a difference.  It saves lives.  It educates children.  It helps to feed people.  And I think we know that, for instance, rates of poverty have decreased dramatically over the last decades. And so I think the numbers are there that show that, clearly, aid has made a difference. I think the debate is really around how can we make aid more effective.

Watch the video for the full discussion. 

Street Children in Kinshasa, Congo

Grace Lambila works at an ORPER shelter (Oeuvre de Reclassement et de Protection des Enfants de la Rue), an organization that provides aid, and sometimes a home, to street children in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Founded in 1981 by a Catholic priest, ORPER runs “open” centers where children are free to come and go, and “closed” centers where they are watched more closely.

Some of the boys who stay at the open center include:

Fundi, a 13-year-old boy, was brought to Kinshasa a year ago by his mother, along with his sister, where she planned to join the children’s father, but they discovered he had taken another wife. Fundi’s mother returned home, leaving the children with their father, but after being mistreated, Fundi’s sister went to their uncle and he ran away to live on the streets.

Kape was abandoned by his parents, and lived on the streets until he was taken in by ORPER when he was 10. Kape now brings other boys to an open center, where they a place to shower, to eat, to sleep, and to learn.

Christian takes remedial classes during the day and works in a parking lot at night. He makes around $3 a day, enough to buy extra food.

Ariel, 13, still goes to the main square to beg. On most days he makes around $1.50.

Other children at ORPER earn money by reselling plastic bags they found in the trash, or work as prostitutes. Some drink alcohol or dissolve Valium in Primus beer, shake it, drink it, follow with cannabis, and repeat the sequence.

Annette Wanzio, who has worked with street children for 20 years, says, “In Africa, children belong to everyone—an uncle, an aunt.”

She and others at ORPER work hard to place children with their extended families, which can sometimes take years or fail entirely; of every 100 children who come through the center, only 40 return to their families. “Sometimes families say, ‘Well, they’re doing well, so why should they return to us?’ ” she adds.

[Christian Science Monitor]        ….continued

Street girls’ success stories in Democratic Republic of Congo

Sister Stella Ekka was born near Calcutta and has worked for 17 years in the Congolese capital at a girls’ closed center, Home Maman Souzanne, where she supervises 23 girls, ages 6 to 15.

A few of the girls at the center suffered from physical or sexual abuse and had run away from home. Some were abandoned by parents too poor to support them.

The girls have few possessions—a change of clothes, a school uniform. They share 30 books, some crayons, a doll, and a game of Scrabble. One room has a TV.

Sister Stella takes great pride in the girl who got a job in a bank, the one who married a doctor, and a young woman who went to another country. “That makes me happy. That encourages me,” she said.

Another girl who is now at the center also gives Sister Stella reason to hope—a girl who barely said a word when she first arrived. T. lives at the center and goes to the afternoon session at the Lycée Kasa-Vubu, where she studies French. She is in 10th grade but is unsure of her age. She came to the center on her own four years ago after some other girls on the street told her about it. After T. came to the center her mother died of AIDS. Her brother now also lives in a closed center. They do not know who their father is.

When T. lived with her mother she was accused of witchcraft and often beaten, sometimes for no reason and once for breaking a porcelain plate while doing the dishes. In the evening her mother would leave her and her brother alone, giving them both medicine to make them sleep so that she could work as a prostitute.

At Home Maman Souzanne, T. helps prepare the food for the girls, and she goes to the market to buy vegetables and fish. She washes clothes and takes care of the young ones. “I want to be a TV journalist,” she says, “so I can report on my country’s living conditions.”

[Christian Science Monitor]

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Lebanon highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world

The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has passed 1 million, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Thursday, making up almost a quarter of the country’s resident population.

Their numbers have made Lebanon the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, the agency said.

“The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

The total number of registered Syrian refugees in all countries is 2.58 million, according to the United Nations. Other nations with large populations of Syrian refugees include Jordan and Turkey.

The number in Lebanon has now risen into seven figures, from just 18,000 two years ago.U.N. staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new Syrian refugees every day, the UNHCR said.