DE SOTO, Kansas — The presence of social media enables just about anyone to catch a glimpse of the lavish lifestyle many celebrities have. Media coverage of the rich and famous precedes global poverty in most news outlets. This could cause the audience to be ignorant of the difficult circumstances occurring worldwide, such as poverty rates in Zimbabwe rising over 30% in recent years. However, some celebrities have used their fortunes and status to create organizations that aid struggling countries and promote media coverage of global poverty issues. Nonprofits founded by celebrities help to raise awareness of the economic discrepancies worldwide.
The Gates Foundation
The founder of Microsoft, and perhaps the individual with the most known of nonprofits founded by celebrities, is Bill Gates along with his wife Melinda Gates. Bill and Melinda founded the Gates Foundation in the year 2000 as a way to aid partners in struggling countries make advancements to decrease global poverty. As of now, the Gates Foundation has funded more than $770 million just in Ethiopia. These funds provide life-saving vaccines, medical care and seeds for farming.
One of the foundation’s most recent projects is the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, prompting scientists and engineers all over the world to create a low-cost toilet system that did not require a water supply or sewer system. In 2018, the Gates Foundation held an expo demonstrating toilets using internal combustion and chemical treatment. These toilets were then brought to countries that struggle with finding safe water. The toilets allow citizens to manage human waste, therefore reducing pathogens and leading to greater usable water.
Leo Messi Foundation
Lionel Messi may be known as one of the most elite soccer players as well as an ambassador for UNICEF, but he also funded his own nonprofit organization in 2007. The Leo Messi Foundation ultimately focuses on improving the lives of children in areas impacted by violence and poverty.
As an athlete, Messi believes children across the globe should have access to the medical care necessary for living a healthy life. With eight million children dying each year from preventable diseases, Messi is dedicated to reducing youth mortality rates.
In 2017, the Leo Messi Foundation began a program dedicated to fighting malnutrition in children in Mozambique. The program funds cafeterias that provide meals to 15,000 schoolchildren in Mozambique.
Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI)
Without a famous name attached to the title, it may not seem that ECI is a celebrity nonprofit organization. Actor Ben Affleck founded ECI in 2010 to improve social and economic development in eastern Congo. The organization aims to bring awareness of the poverty present in Eastern Congo. ECI also funds grants needed to provide necessary resources to the people of Congo struggling with diseases and poverty
In 2015, ECI partnered with a nonprofit named CADERCO to develop a farming initiative. The goal was to train farmers to produce coffee in order to export to countries such as the United States. The farmers were able to produce almost 20,000 pounds of coffee beans, making a profit of $25,000. Since then, both ECI and CADERCO have been able to increase the income of 400 different coffee bean farmers in Congo.
Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP)
Dedicated to making the world a better place, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt created the MJP foundation, named after their son, in 2003. This celebrity nonprofit focuses on promoting a sustainable lifestyle in rural villages in Cambodia. Over 80% of Cambodia’s population works in agriculture.
The MJP foundation works to provide education on better farming habits in order to enable the people of Cambodia to make the most of their products. An example of this is Phem Sok Chea, a 36-year-old Cambodian, who received aid from MJP to promote a better home garden. Phem’s family depended solely on the income of her husband, often time leaving them hungry. MJP provided Phem with seeds and training for growing her own vegetables.
As of March 2020, Phem was not only able to grow garlic, lettuce, beans and gourds, she was able to gift produce to her neighbors, according to MJP’s website. The MJP farming initiative not only provided Phem and her family with food but also a way for Phem to continue living sustainably.
World poverty is not always at the forefront of news articles. Highlighting nonprofits founded by celebrities sheds light on the aid being provided to those in struggling communities. When famous individuals use their leverage to provide greater health, medical and farming habits to hurting communities, it brings global issues to the attention of the general public. Awareness of global poverty prompts individuals to give back to those who need it.
– Micaela Carrillo