By Pedro Werneck*

In August 2010, 40 American millionaires agreed to donate half of their fortunes to charity, in response to a request made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, two of the richest men in the world. David Rockefeller, Ted Turner and Michael Bloomberg are among the ones who joined the initiative.

The American Gates and Mexican Carlos Slim, always at the top of the list of the wealthiest in the world, announced donations of $ 150 million to fight malnutrition, dengue, malaria and other health problems in Mexico and Central America. The initiative is to benefit up to 10 million people.

Months later, Forbes Magazine announced the new list of the world’s billionaires. Among them, 30 are Brazilian, and 12 of them have made to the list for the first time. Today, over 60 billion dollars are in the hands of less than 20 Brazilians.

Without pointing fingers at anyone, the inevitable questions that come to us, Brazilians, are: what is the fate that our countrymen will make of their fortunes? In other words: what is the commitment of our billionaires to the social development of Brazil and the world?

Unfortunately Brazilians, mainly the wealthiest, are still very cautious when it comes to donating for social causes.  In 2010, for instance, a fundraising dinner brought together the best chefs in the country in support of the victims of the floods that affected the state of Rio de Janeiro. The organizers faced difficulties in gathering 100 people to raise R$250,000. At the same time, wealthy people like to appear in magazines and newspapers showing their brand new handbags worth R$40,000.  Where are the Brazilian billionaires when it is time to contribute to social causes?

Nevertheless, Brazilians really enjoy helping – whether a lost tourist on the street, or in times of great national calamity, such as the floods that affected Rio de Janeiro, helping others is part of Brazilian culture. But this practice has to become more frequent and far-reaching in order to attend hundreds of social projects.

To take action is much easier than people imagine. For example, in Brazil it is possible to direct part of your income tax to the Fund for Children and Youth, which invests in projects that benefit low income children youth in the state of Rio de Janeiro. And just to make it clear: you don’t need to be a billionaire to start helping.


*Pedro Werneck is a social entrepreneur and president of Instituto da Criança (The Children’s Institute).