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Wealth & Giving Forum Inspires Spirit of Giving to Fight Malaria in Africa
A myriad of messages compete for attention in today’s world. Filtering reliable facts from all the noise can be a time-consuming challenge for philanthropists interested in taking concrete steps to create lasting, positive change. Organizations like the Wealth & Giving Forum are helping families and individuals of means to distill competing demands on philanthropy into clear initiatives that can lead to informed and meaningful acts of giving.
Last spring, the Wealth & Giving Forum convened a weekend-long retreat that inspired the group’s members to contribute more than $2 million to help The Earth Institute at Columbia University advance the fight against malaria in Africa.
Founded in 2004 by Leonard Kaplan, a longtime philanthropist from Greensboro, NC, the Wealth & Giving Forum, based in New York City, is committed to nurturing the spirit and tradition of generosity among the affluent. The organization invites its network twice a year to informal, comfortable settings where both seasoned and novice philanthropists can exchange ideas and learn about global issues and philanthropy from invited experts as well as their peers.
In mid-April, 2005, members gathered in West Virginia at the historic Greenbrier Resort, where the discussions were joined by such high-profile guests as Her Majesty Queen Noor and Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Newsweek. Also among the speakers was Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University.
More than 100 guests took part in the ambitious schedule of lectures and discussions over the course of the weekend. The philanthropists were moved and inspired by Sachs’s closing presentation on the “Silent Tsunamis” of Africa. Such catastrophes are caused not by monolithic walls of water, but by the crippling waves of disease, hunger, and poverty that take the lives of millions of people every year.
Sachs spoke at length about malaria, a disease that kills an estimated three million people annually, 90 percent of whom live in Africa and are under the age of five. The real tragedy is that malaria is a largely preventable disease that can be managed with cost-effective treatments and tools. The Millennium Villages Project in Sauri, Kenya, and Koraro, Ethiopia – communities that are each home to 5,000 people – is an example of what can happen when inexpensive, science-based solutions are used to combat the cycle of poverty. In particular, these two projects are showing how targeted malaria interventions, such as bed nets, are capable of saving lives.
As the weekend came to a close, participants were eager to directly contribute to the fight against the malaria epidemic. It was not long after Sachs’s appearance that the Wealth & Giving Forum was pleased to share the good news: Their members had decided to generously support a new Earth Institute malaria project. The mission of the new initiative is to scale up malaria control efforts in 10 African countries, including Kenya, Benin, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.
“This contribution by members of the Wealth & Giving Forum is an example of how committed individuals can step up to address real-world needs,” said Leonard Kaplan, founder of the Wealth & Giving Forum. “It shows that the impact of philanthropy is magnified when people decide to act collectively. This kind of group giving will generate new ideas and more acts of generosity in years to come. The contribution targets an urgent cause, and the involvement of the Earth Institute ensures that our members' resources are deployed effectively.”
The Wealth & Giving Forum participants’ contribution will support efforts to achieve a “Quick Win” against malaria by 2008, as outlined by the UN Millennium Project. A fundamental component of this initiative is called “Breaking the Bottlenecks to Malaria Control (BTB),” which consists of the provision of technical expertise to African nations that are grappling with high malaria infection rates. The ultimate goal of the BTB project is to scale up strategies to provide sustainable access to life-saving malaria treatments and control measures.
“At the Greenbrier, I realized that individuals and families like these are going to inspire large organizations and governments to act,” said Jeffrey Sachs. “I want to express our thanks to the Wealth & Giving Forum and its network for their support for our activities in Africa, and for their leadership in the philanthropic community.”
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit www.earth.columbia.edu.