With a lecture about “Philanthropy in Mexico” Mr. Carlos Slim Helu participated in the 1st Conference Innovating Tijuana 2010, held from the 7th to the 21st of October 2010.
Tijuana, Baja California, October 19, 2010.
Host: Welcome to this last segment of our morning session of Innovating Tijuana. Today’s topic for debate is philanthropy.
Undoubtedly, there is no better way to close this session dedicated to philanthropy than to introduce you to a man that has practically made of this word his life’s dedication. We will therefore end this day’s debates last but no least introducing the President of the Carlos Slim and Telmex Foundations, Mr. Carlos Slim.
Mr. Slim’s admirable career has flourished parallel to his philanthropic spirit. Considered by Forbes magazine as the world’s richest man, Slim has also dedicated the largest amount of funds to altruistic causes while still alive. His donations have been channeled to a wide array of matters including housing, health, environment, as well and culture and the arts through the Soumaya Foundation.
Carlos Slim is the successful man that honors us this evening with his presence in Innovating Tijuana. He has always recommended youngsters to overcome any weaknesses with courage. Please welcome with a round of applause Mr. Carlos Slim.
Lecture on “Philanthropy in Mexico” addressed by Mr. Carlos Slim Helu in 1st Conference Innovating Tijuana 2010, on October 19, 2010.
Thank you very much; good afternoon,
First of all I would like to thank and congratulate the organizers of Innovating Tijuana. I was gladly impressed during the one-hour visit we made along all the stands and facilities. It is very impressive to see what Tijuana is doing, its technological progress, how it transformed itself from a common manufacturing city to an added value manufacturing powerhouse. Tijuana has now developed its own technology. Congratulations to all of Tijuana’s residents for this effort and success.
Likewise, one should strive to combine entrepreneurial experience and activities with socially supportive programs fostered by foundations. Our foundations are now 24 and 25 years old. We have mostly worked through 3 foundations, two of them being quite big. For us, it is important to first understand the problem we want to solve. We begin by diagnosing the problem, we then look for the appropriate solution and we finally provide or look for the means, whether financial, economic or human, needed to address the problems. What we don’t do is to gather the funds first, and then see what to do with them. We do it exactly the other way around.
We believe that business experience and talent, along with the capacities developed by the private sector, allow us to identify and surpass social problems with the same efficiency and efficacy that we apply when doing private business.
From the start we try to identify high impact projects in those areas supported by our social programs. These include maternal nutrition during pregnancy and postnatal attention to mothers and children in order to lower maternal and infant mortality rates. Our “Balanced Beginning” program, allows newborns to begin their lives in adequate weight conditions because their mothers are properly fed. During birth, we prevent newborns from suffering lack of oxygen, hypoxia, low head and other common birth risks. We provide proper care to prevent the kid from having problems for the rest of his/her life.
After that, of course, it is important to guarantee that the child will live a healthy life. This is why we will strengthen our programs aimed at early education. These programs are aimed at mothers with newborns, but also cover education in mathematical logics and other kind of training for preschool children. Once in school, this education covers first, second and third graders with manuals and diverse materials.
Indeed, health is important and early education too. This is why we strive to provide quality education from early education to university degrees. After my lecture there will be some time for questions so I will not treat all topics in detail. I hope you will have some questions that will help me deepen any comment that you find interesting.
We have been working in education for several years. We support a lot of scholars, around 15 thousand yearly. Telmex scholars have access to broadband Internet; they are provided with a computer and a financial stipend. The program makes no differences on the basis of the scholar’s level of income. This is a program that supports merited youngsters.
In addition to our health and education programs we also have cultural programs. Our “Social Bailouts” program helps persons convicted by minor non-violent misdemeanors. These persons are not criminals; sometimes they are innocent and cannot pay their bailout because of their extreme poverty condition; their situation usually leads to the destruction of their family life. As we all know, prisons are crime schools. The less time these persons stay inside a prison the better. They should be judged in liberty.
Maternal nutrition has been very important for us. Several years ago we conducted studies in two cities and we found out that a child could gain 15% more weight if fed with a creamy blend developed by the Federico Gómez Children’s Hospital. When we talked about this to the then President Ernesto Zedillo he adopted the formula in the Progresa program, known today as the Oportunidades program. The government included this formula in its social programs for mothers and children until the age of 2. I believe this was very important.
We also work in other health projects like genomics with the Broad Institute in Boston, the MIT and Harvard University. Eric Lander is in charge of these studies and works closely with Mexico sharing knowledge on the way to conduct this kind of research and development. Genomics strives to prevent and cure diabetes, several kinds of cancer and kidney failure. This program will last 2 to 3 years and amounts to 65 million dollars. The interesting part of this is all the learning and knowledge to be developed. With no doubt, this is a way to make healthcare more preventive and competitive for its future universal use.
I would like to share with you some statistics regarding scholarships. Last year we granted 17,500 scholarships. We gave out 29,878 computers. We have built what we call digital classrooms in schools and made them available to students and their families. We have also built Telmex digital libraries where we lend laptop computers to youngsters and their families. Instead of lending books we lend laptop computers. We are supporting several projects in this sense.
As regards education we have a program called “Help me get there” aimed at children from rural areas that live two hours away from their school. We provide them with bicycles to help get there. This interesting initiative granted 234,700 bicycles in 2009. Youngsters can go to school in 20 minutes instead of 2 hours and enjoy the ride.
Our Transplant Foundation has supported 6,052 transplants to improve the quality of life of sick people. In many cases we provide them with the proper care to avoid early death from lack of attention.
We are also very proud of another program in the health sector, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the National Academy of Surgery. The program is called “Out of Hospital Surgeries”. We perform surgeries outside traditional hospitals with great Mexican surgeons who offer their time and work in remote health centers. We thus provide surgeries in places where this service is not available. Through this successful program we performed only last year 104,273 surgeries. Our goal for this year is to attain 120,000. I don’t know if we will reach this goal. But the important part of this is the participation of so many physicians, doctors and renowned national surgeons who not only provide their services but also teach local doctors in remote areas. We basically perform surgeries in ophthalmology, orthopedics, reconstructive surgery, harelip, etc.
This program has been transferred to Peru where we aim at performing 50,000 surgeries in 3 years. We are spreading some of our programs to Latin America.
We have also signed an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and with the Spanish government so as to eradicate dengue fever and malaria in Southern Mexico and Central America. This programs costs 150 million in addition to the effort, money and work provided by the governments in the region. This program will begin in a few months.
In the health sector we work in research, applied technology and innovation. These are two of the fundamental aspects of Innovating Tijuana: technology and culture. We are working towards the implementation of telemedicine in order to apply technology to health. We believe this is very important.
Unfortunately, we still face big shortcomings regarding education. There are youngsters that do not go to school or to work. This is a big problem, probably one of our most important problems. We do not believe we have to deal with this issue in a traditional manner. It will be very difficult to build all the classrooms and universities needed by these youngsters. One should use technology and innovating ideas in order to help these youngsters without school or employment. The aim is to help them prepare themselves and later become good job candidates. With the advantages provided by good quality higher education they will have the possibility to access better jobs.
In the sports sector we support a soccer championship with social purposes. Last year the Telmex cup supported 280 teams equivalent to 187,765 soccer players in just one championship.
In addition to this national soccer cup with so many teams (it has been included for 3 years in the Guinness book of world records) we have been supporting a worldwide cup for homeless children conceived by a Swiss national.
These kids play soccer, a national team is selected and then they compete with around 70 more countries. This year the cup took place in Rio de Janeiro. In one occasion Mexico won second place and in another we won third place. This is very important because it is a way to dignify and transform the lives of these homeless kids, by means of a soccer championship.
Mexico will host this world cup in 2012. Nevertheless every year the teams are important because they include youngsters from the suburbs that prepare to compete and dignify their lives by means of sports. It is worth mentioning that in the last Telmex Cup several players from the USA signed up in San Diego. I believe it is important that teams be formed on the other side of the frontier so that players maintain their roots and relationship with Mexico.
In addition to what I’ve just told you, we have also signed an agreement with Washington University to provide health services in Southeastern Mexico. We have other important projects with them.
Regarding culture we encourage plenty of activities in addition to those supported by foundations and private companies. For instance, in our out of hospital surgery program we have 1,800 volunteers that work in companies, thus strengthening our presence in each place.
We now have 3 projects. One of them concluded successfully in the Historic Center of Mexico City. As you may probably know, the President of Mexico and the Mayor of Mexico City invited me to join their project to rescue the city’s historic center. The project succeeded because both the local and the federal governments supported it. The downtown area’s own history and the participation of the local neighbors and the city’s population in general contributed too. We decided not to only restore buildings but to revitalize the whole area. The idea was to bring back the city center to life, attract people to live there, especially the younger generations. We supported the Claustro de Sor Juana University and its partnership with the National University. We invited the neighbors to participate.
One of our aims was to raise the socioeconomic level of the area. We provided training with the help of foundations. We fostered the creation of new jobs. Indeed, the first step was to provide security and basic public services so as to satisfy the local population and allow them to live, walk and study in peace.
We now have 2 projects. The first one is the Soumaya Museum that we began 16 years ago and that will finally conclude its first phase next December. We are constructing a new beautiful and special building for the museum. The opening of this new iconic building for Mexico City will take place in December. The museum is a very sophisticated, state of the art, building that will allow Mexican nationals who cannot travel to appreciate an interesting and valuable collection of European and Mexican art. Part of the collection will also travel to other parts of Mexico.
Next to the Soumaya Museum we plan to construct the Jumex Museum of Contemporary Art and a theatre with a seating capacity of 1,500. The theatre will welcome artists in their early or midlife careers that do not have access to the National Auditorium or other big theatres. One of our objectives is to facilitate that people living in the downtown area find a job there. This will avoid hours of commuting.
The second project is a very interesting one. As you most probably know the Basilica of Guadalupe is one of the most important places of pilgrimage and number of visitors, calculated in 18 million a year. Eight or ten years ago there was an initiative to rebuild the Mariana Plaza and rehabilitate the whole area. Our foundation will donate all the funds needed to construct around 65 thousand meters. This will allow relocating local businesses, providing office space, and building a museum and a great Mariana Plaza in an integral project.
Our goal is to recover part of our investment through a trust fund. Funds collected will be then used to support pilgrims, maintain the area and guarantee more dignified surroundings around the Basilica.
These are some of the projects supported by our foundations. As I have stated several times before, poverty must be fought with health, education and, above all, jobs and more jobs. At the end of the day, this is what we can offer to society. What people mostly want is a good job, a secure job ,security for their children’s education and security for their retirement, health, education and housing.
This is one of the most important challenges in Mexico, especially with such a young population. The challenge most be met not only by the governments but by all of us, especially the ones with more privileges and responsibilities who, in my view, have to do more.
I would like to share with you a passage written by Khalil Gibrán in his book The Prophet. The passage talks about gifts. This is what we think and I hope you understand it in a positive way. I believe this passage is worth quoting:
“And a rich man asked, talk to us about gifts, and he answered: you do not give much if you only give possessions; give yourselves and then you will really give. What are your possessions if not just things you treasure from fear of needing them tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow… what will tomorrow bring to the provident dog that buries its bones in the sand, while he follows pilgrims to the Holy city? And what is necessity if not fear of necessity itself? When the well is full, is not fear to thirst an insatiable thirst?”
“Some persons give a little part of the lot they possess and give it ostentatiously. But their hidden desire turns their gifts into worthless presents. There are some others who have little and give it all, these ones believe in life, in the generosity of life and their coffers will never empty.
“There are some who give with pleasure and this pleasure is their reward. And there are others that give with pain and this pain is their baptism. But there are some who give and when giving feel no pain nor seek pleasure; they do not give to demand virtue; they give as the myrtle in the valley who melts its fragrance with its surroundings. Through the hands of this man God speaks and through his eyes God smiles across the surface of the earth”.