by Radiyah Shakur
Discovering devastating statistics that only fifty percent of African-American and Hispanic-Americans graduate from college, Melinda Gates decided to do something to reverse the trend.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation initiated its education program to ensure that all students graduate from high-school and are prepared for college, work, and citizenship. It provides scholarships for minority ethnic groups to complete an undergraduate degree, as well as grants for high-school improvements. Additionally, they have a program in the US and other countries that aims to increase accessibility to information and decrease the technological divide, by providing free internet access in public libraries.
Through its global healthcare division, Melinda and her husband have donated millions to the prevention of AIDS, and other diseases that threaten developing countries. The organization currently provides 90% of the world budget for the attempted eradication of polio, and has donated over $100million to support children suffering from AIDS. In January 2005, Melinda and her husband made a further contribution of $75million to the international Vaccine Fund to help fight diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, polio and yellow fever. In December of 2005, the charity announced it would give $84.3 million in grants, including $60 million to Save the Children, to help prevent newborn illness and death in 18 developing countries. The grants will increase access to economical interventions, such as antibiotics and clean childbirth kits, which could potentially save millions of lives.
Another aspect of the Foundation includes a local initiative to remove the thousands of homeless that sleep on the streets every night in their home state of Washington and neighboring Portland, Oregon area. They work with public and private groups to stabilize the situation of vulnerable families; providing funds for early learning for children, supportive housing for homeless families, and grants for disadvantaged communities.
In 2005, Forbes ranked Melinda Gates at the 10th most powerful woman, and in the same year she was among TIME’s Persons of the Year list for her charitable work. Wife of Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft, Melinda co-founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. With an endowment of $28billion, it is the world’s largest charitable organization, supporting projects for greater minority education, disease prevention, access to healthcare, and eradication of homelessness.