State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Making a Difference in Africa

The Earth Institute received a surprise gift of $2.1 million from Sue and Bill Gross to benefit the crucial work of the Millennium Villages project. The gift is the third from financier Gross and his wife Sue, who have given more than $5 million in unrestricted support of the Millennium Villages project, a community-led, holistic project that supports local villagers through a multi-dimensional/integrated approach to tackle the underlying causes of extreme poverty.

A child in the Millennium Villages receives health care
A child in the Millennium Villages receives health care

Funds for the first two gifts were raised through auctions of Bill Gross’s rare collections of Scandinavian and British Empire stamps. In addition to being a legend in the world of stamp collecting, Mr. Gross is the co-founder, managing director, and co-chief investment officer of PIMCO, one of the world’s largest bond management firms. Through these generous gifts, Bill and Sue Gross are continuing to help the Earth Institute find innovative and effective science-based solutions to help stop extreme poverty around the world.

Bill and Sue Gross are supporting several key components of the Earth Institute’s work in the Millennium Villages, helping to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in health, environment, agriculture, education and policy. The couple’s gifts have played a critical role in establishing mobile phone and internet connectivity in the villages, and training community health workers to deliver preventative and curative services at the household level.

Information and communications technology work in the African villages has enabled the installation of computers in schools, the creation of mobile health applications, such as the use of SMS to monitor for malnutrition and malaria in children, and the launch of small businesses around the use of cell phones. Community health workers create an important connection to the larger health care system by providing information and directing referrals to clinics and district hospitals. And because community health workers are from the communities they serve, patients often feel more comfortable telling them about health issues or concerns they might not otherwise want to talk about.

“We support the Millennium Villages project because we believe in its model of empowering villagers with the tools, knowledge and skills to create sustainable futures for themselves.” said Sue and Bill Gross. “The Millennium Villages project continues to be the right investment for us, and for humanity.”

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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