Bill Gates extends philanthropic efforts to another Reddit gift exchange

Photo from Reddit user Aerrix on December 16.

For the fourth year running, Bill Gates has taken part in Reddit’s Secret Santa gift exchange — a small but public addition to the tens of billions already given away by the world’s biggest philanthropist.

Reddit user Aerrix was this year’s lucky recipient, according to the user’s post, which included a photo of a multi-part gift pack including three custom Xbox One controllers, an Nintendo entertainment system (classic edition), and matching Legend of Zelda mittens for Aerrix and her dog. The billionaire donated to the nonprofit code.org in Aerrix’s name, “to give more students the chance to learn computer science,” she said in her post.

The user also received a personal note with a photo of Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in a Santa hat.

Image from Reddit user Aerrix.

Image from Reddit user Aerrix.

“My jaw seriously dropped, I just became wide-eyed and stared at the box/picture for a moment while it sunk in,” the winner of Gates gift-giving told Humanosphere. She said her real name is Alicia and she’s from Nebraska.

Gates has given numerous gifts through Reddit’s gift exchange over the years. Under the user’s name, the philanthropist has sent donations to the organizations Malaria No More, Shot@Life and Heifer International, a charity that gives clean water, animals and other resources to families.

But the gifts are minimal when compared to the money Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, have distributed through their philanthropy over the years. The billionaires have given away over $29 billion — more money than anyone in the history of humanity — more than $8  billion of which was dedicated to improving global health.

One project Gates has pursued with particular interest is the eradication of polio. When the Gates Foundation first launched its efforts to eradicate the disease in 1998, the virus was paralyzing over 400,000 children every year. This year, that number is under just a few dozen.

“It’s possible that the last case will be in 2016,” Gates said earlier this year. “We need some good execution and a little bit of luck.”

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s clear that goal will not be reached. This is largely to blame on health workers’ inability to vaccinate in conflict zones of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — a country that was declared free of the disease in 2011 but saw a resurgence of the poliovirus earlier this year.

But Gates is still confident that the end of polio is within reach. He’s said he believes the abolition of the disease will grab headlines and, hopefully, spur countries on to other global health efforts like measles and malaria.

Over 95 percent of Gates’ vast wealth goes to the Foundation, Gates said in an interview with the Telegraph. The organization will spend all of it within 20 years after he and Melinda are gone. Allocating his money in this way is “about human dignity and equality,” he said, and “the golden rule that all lives have equal value and we should treat people as we would like to be treated.”

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Lisa Nikolau

Lisa Nikolau is a Seattle-based reporter for Humanosphere, covering gender equality, indigenous rights and poverty in Latin America and worldwide. Find her on Twitter at @lisanikolau or email lisa.nikolau@humanosphere.org.