The Diverse Faces of Philanthropy

In late June 2019, a new world record was established in terms of divorce settlements. Attorneys for Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced the finalization of their marriage dissolution, which left the former Mrs. Bezos with a net worth of $38 billion, most of it coming from shares of Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce marketplace. The settlement, which is the largest in the history of marital strife, also opened a new chapter in philanthropy. In the weeks prior to the settlement, Mrs. Bezos made clear that she intended to donate half of her new fortune to charity, a move that bumped her a few spots down the list of the world’s richest women; philanthropically speaking, however, she proved to be a more generous individual than her former husband.

We all know that philanthropy is one of the most noble activities individuals can undertake; however, since this has become a humanitarian field largely reserved to wealthy families, we tend to overlook the thought process that fuels the charitable work of foundations. In terms of vision, intention and execution, there is a lot of diversity in philanthropy, and this can be clearly seen in the two examples below:

The Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research

Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, created this foundation for the purpose of complementing his economic development projects to improve quality of life in this region of the United Arab Emirates. What is interesting about this foundation is that it runs parallel to government efforts in increasing development. An example of how this organization works is as follows: RAK Ceramics is a major industry in the emirate, and it seeks to employ local residents who are high school graduates. To ensure that RAK Ceramics has a wide pool of applicants, the Al Qasimi Foundation runs a program that identifies students who are at risk of dropping out of school for various reasons, and they receive a hands-on learning approach to ensure they succeed at the academic level so that they don’t miss out on employment opportunities. 

The Jane Goodall Institute

Since 1977, the good work of Dr. Jane Goodall, one of the world’s most respected anthropologists, has focused on nature conservation, but many people believe that her approach is solely dedicated to wildlife habitats. In reality, Dr. Goodall’s lifetime of research has taught us that primate conservation is just one piece of the puzzle we call life. Humans share many traits in common with chimpanzees and other primates; the research we have conducted in relation to protecting these species has made us more aware of the need to protect ecosystems, including the ones our communities live in. In Tanzania, for example, primatology researchers noticed that villagers living near the Bugoma Forest Reserves were burning up too much firewood for cooking, thus filling up the wildlife preserve with smoke. Through the installation of rocket stoves, ultra-efficient mechanisms for burning less wood and reducing smoke, researchers are improving the lives of both chimpanzees and villagers.

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