H.H. the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yesterday received Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the attendance of H.H. the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on the occasion of his official visit to the country.
Sheikh Sabah decorated Gates with the state first-degree award in appreciation for his tremendous efforts and distinguished tasks in the field of humanitarian and voluntary actions. “I want to thank His Highness the Amir for welcoming me on my first visit to Kuwait. It is an honor to meet a man who has had such an important role in global development, and (to) discuss ways to further our partnership,” Gates said. H.H. the Amir also decorated Gates with the informatics medal at the Sheikh Salem Al-Ali Al-Sabah Informatics Award at Bayan Palace.
Later, in an open dialogue session with young Kuwaitis at Bayan Palace yesterday, Gates said he was “very impressed” with the level of generosity of the youth of Kuwait, describing his visit to Kuwait as “fitting” to his second career in philanthropy. Gates again thanked H.H. Sheikh Sabah for inviting him to the country, offering sage advice to the youth gathered at the ballroom by saying “passion is the most important attribute to attaining prosperity”.
Gates stressed the importance of a sound college education, calling it a chance to “explore and familiarize oneself with the world” in order to make a huge difference. In order to make a difference, he said, “we don’t have to have a lot of money or a lot of time. We need passion.” “All lives have equal value,” Gates said when explaining his unbridled passion for philanthropy. “I believe that the world has enough tools and resources to eradicate poverty and hunger … we need the world not to starve but thrive.”
At the onset of the Syrian crisis, Gates illustrated the fact that Kuwait was among the first nations to take action by distributing humanitarian aid that helped alleviate the suffering of millions of Syrian refugees displaced by war in their country. The world’s richest man disclosed that he had met the late Kuwaiti philanthropist Abdulrahman Al-Sumait’s son earlier yesterday, saying that he highly admired the legacy that Sumait had forged in a lifetime dedicated to serving the needy and less fortunate.
Gates also underscored the fact that, “lifting the poor out of poverty starts with the fundamentals and starting out young is key in having humanitarian contributions come to fruition. There’s only one human race and we should help each other,” he noted.
On her part, Undersecretary of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah said in her speech that giving is not a state of mind but a conscious decision, describing Kuwait as the “land of youth and youth giving”. “I am speaking on behalf of the risk-takers and dreamers,” Sheikha Al-Zain asserted, acknowledging the honoring of Kuwait by the United Nations as a “Humanitarian Center” by saying that “giving is in Kuwaitis’ DNA”.
Taking a stroll down memory lane, Sheikha Al-Zain noted that a few months after liberation from Iraqi occupation in 1991, Kuwait increased its giving capacity significantly. “Volunteerism is an integral part of our identity,” she said. Underscoring Kuwait’s growing contributions to humanitarian efforts around the globe, Sheikha Al-Zain noted that the country broke the Guinness world record of international donations on two different occasions: Collecting toys and clothes in one day.
Sheikha Al-Zain revealed that Kuwaiti youth have raised $185,000 in donations, announcing the formation of formation of a national database to help coordinate humanitarian contributions. Named, “Kafu”, the database is expected to be up and running soon. The event concluded with an interaction between Gates and school and college youths who attended the session. Many of the questions focused on how innovation and technology assist all aspects of humanitarianism.
Gates stressed the importance of technology and in solving health problems. He said that in the case of child mortality, the rate was down by five percent due to innovation in medicine and medical tools. In order to make a break through and lower death rates even further, more than $4 million a year should be generated towards scientific tools and research. Nonetheless, between innovation and delivery systems “magic happens” in solving humanitarian problems, Gates stressed.
On social media, Gates pointed out that it has played a positive role in making humanitarian problems well known to the public by taking a picture or writing a blog online. He further said that online payments made it easier to disperse money to and from governments, NGOs and even people. Even though Gates’ foundation has deep expertise in disease, agriculture, water and vaccination to alleviating the current crises of the refugees worldwide, it was also providing healthcare, education, nutrition and shelter for the displaced, he said.