So I had this opportunity to go to the “Gates Foundation Museum,” which ended up actually being their visitor center, and taking a guided tour.
“The Gates Foundation has a museum?” I said.
“Yes!” they said.
“Can I bring my baby?” I said, thinking the answer would most certainly be no.
“Yes!” they said. “It is very interactive!” they said.
“Excellent,” I said, “Sign me up.”
The day we scheduled the tour just so happened to be the day of a lot of local college graduations. And a few major streets in the city were closed. And the baby was teething and sad and throwing fits. We were about 30 minutes late to our tour appointment, but Davida was so gracious, it was a total non issue and she started up the tour immediately.
The first room you enter you are surrounded by faces. Some of them work for The Gates Foundation, some of them have been helped by The Gates Foundation. The thing that struck me most about that room was how these were people. They were not models posing for a campaign, they were not overly staged, they were not exploited. It was a room full of people, on this planet, affected by a global company trying to do good works. So many faces, so many stories, so many unique people.
If you can really believe that all 7 billion people on the planet are equal to you in spirit, then you will take action to make the world more equal for everyone. -Melinda Gates
The second room talks about numbers. The reality of vaccines in the world, the reality of disease, and the positive impact The Gates Foundation has had on the spread of disease vs the spread of life saving vaccines. It also has a giant tile wall with dates on it, as you turn each tile a story, or photo, or perhaps a series of tiles appear and shed light on the company’s history.
Gabe loved turning the wall of tiles. He loved it so much that he tantrumed when we walked away. Throwing fits in public places is our new normal. I’m hoping that new normal changes soon.
The lovely Davida was so patient with me, answering my questions about why Polio still clings on in this world, though it is eradicated in most country.
We talked about why the poor have a harder time getting vaccinated. (Who has time for multiple doses of a vaccine when you spend all of your time working for your next meal? When your day to day is not stable. Who can commit to getting their kid into the doctor 3 times over a set amount of months?) The Gates Foundation is figuring out was to make that easier.
Every part of this visitor’s center (and they were right, it is a museum) is beautifully curated. It is amazingly tactile and works to not overwhelm a person with only 1 form of story telling. There are graphs and info boxes and videos. There are levers to pull and buttons to push and somehow, around every corner, a little surprise awaits you. I won’t spoil all of the neat interactions of this space, the experience is too good.
The Gates Foundation doesn’t hit you up for cash. It doesn’t need to, and that is a glorious thing. The work they are doing is to inspire people to give back in their daily lives, to experience being a philanthropist in your very own community. This space works to remind us all that global aid is person to person, it is attainable, it’s important, and it is actually an achievable task.
Did Gabe soak in all of the information, or come home with a new desire to share toys? No, probably not. But it continued to inspire Kamel and I to look for opportunities to assist our community, give back in service wherever we can, and remember that our world is not such a big place. The actions we take here have ripple effects, environmentally or socially.
And Gabe loved the ramps and the stairs and the wall of tiles and an entire kids section to build their own fixes to problems. It reminded me that teaching our kids to give back doesn’t have to wait until they are doing their senior year service project, it can (and should) start now. Get ’em while they’re young. Treat as a normal part of life, because it should be. It needs to be.
I left feeling like this needs to be on every tourist’s top 5 places to visit in Seattle. This amazing global resource functions from this city, and look at all of the work we can accomplish! Look at all of the people helped, look at all of the innovation. We left after our 1 hour tour easily turned into 2, and could have just as easily slipped into 3 except that our almost toddler had hit his party-pooper-wall.
The Gates Foundation is what happens when people, finances, and opportunity come together. It’s more than worth a visit. It’s absolutely necessary.