Category Archives: Ageism

Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion

From the New York Times:

Across from a television set with the obsolete girth of a model bought 20 years ago, beneath the grandchildren’s crayon artwork taped to the wall, to the left of an abandoned hula hoop, Charles F. Feeney sits in an armchair and explains how he will get rid of his last $1.5 billion, give or take, by 2016.

Brad Vest/The New York Times

Charles F. Feeney, 81, has already given away $6 billion through his foundations.Just as he did with his first $6 billion, it will all be awarded through Atlantic Philanthropies, the group of private foundations he created in 1982 and managed to run anonymously for its first 15 years, even though it was one of the largest sources of grants in the United States, Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam.

Why shut it down? Mr. Feeney, 81, a man with no romantic attachment to wealth or its trappings, said the world had enough urgent problems that required attention now, before they became even more expensive to solve.

“When you’ve got the money, you spend it,” Mr. Feeney said. “When you’ve spent it all, let someone else get going and spend theirs.”

When the last of its money has been spent and it closes its doors sometime around 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies will be by far the largest such organization to have voluntarily shut itself down, according to Steven Lawrence, director of research for the Foundation Center. (The much bigger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to shut down 50 years after its founders die.)

By its end, Atlantic will have invested about $7.5 billion in direct medical care,immigration reform, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives. It was an invisible hand at the end of armed conflicts in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, providing funds to buttress constitutional politics over paramilitary action. It has supported marriage-equality campaigns, death penalty opponents and contributed $25 million to push health care reform.

Last fall, Mr. Feeney gave his alma mater, Cornell University, $350 million to seal its bid to build a new campus for advanced engineering that New York City has commissioned for Roosevelt Island. The day the gift was announced, Stanford University dropped out of the competition. He has also given $270 million for a new medical campus in San Francisco. “If only I could remember who hooked me up with it,” Mr. Feeney said. “He said, ‘You’re out here a lot anyway, it won’t take much of your time.’ ” That was in 2004.

With grand philanthropy often comes public glory for wealthy donors, as buildings and institutes are dedicated to benefactors, their names embedded above doorways like graffiti tags chiseled in marble. No building anywhere bears Mr. Feeney’s name. Among tycoons, he has been a countercultural figure of rare force, clinging to his privacy far more fiercely than to his money.

He set up the philanthropies in Bermuda, in large part because that would allow him to escape United States disclosure requirements. That also meant he could not take tax deductions when he contributed his holdings.

Mr. Feeney, who grew up in a working-class family in Elizabeth, N.J., served as a radio operator in the United States Air Force and attended Cornell on the G.I. Bill. He sold liquor to sailors in ports, then formed a company that ran airport duty-free shops around the world. He secretly turned over the duty-free business to the philanthropies in 1984 and continued to invest.

In 1997, he disclosed his role in Atlantic when the business was being sold, but stayed out of public sight. In the last 10 years, he decided that enlarging his profile might inspire rich people to share their fortunes. One result was “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” a sparkling, unblinking biography by Conor O’Clery, a leading Irish journalist.

Another was that Warren Buffett called Mr. Feeney the “spiritual leader” of a campaign urging extremely wealthy people to donate their money.

He buys clothes off the rack — “I’m a shabby dresser,” he said — and until recently, flew coach as he traveled among four or five continents. “They decided as part of my 75th-birthday celebrations that I would be entitled to fly first class,” Mr. Feeney said, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I’ll be honest, I’m not good at flying anymore. To my credit, I can stretch out on two coach seats.”

When in New York, Mr. Feeney lives in a building on a side street in Midtown Manhattan, preferring to bob in the anonymous streams of a crowded sidewalk to being swaddled in the liveried privacy he could easily have bought on Park or Fifth Avenue.

He has given away essentially everything he has made, apart from decent, though not extravagant, provisions for his four daughters and one son. They all worked through college as waiters, maids and cashiers.

“I want the last check I write to bounce,” Mr. Feeney said.

My previous post on this remarkable man who has done so much for Ireland and other communities who are disenfranchised, is as follows:

Celebrating Irishness: Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney – March 2-011 

Charles Feeney was born to a working class family in New Jersey, USA in the early 1930′s. His father’s mother hailed from near Kinawley, in Co Fermanagh, from where she emigrated to the USA.

Charles ‘Chuck ‘ Feeney

In the 1960′s he co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, which sold luxury goods ‘duty free’ in Honolulu and Hong Kong and which eventually became hugely successful, making the partners very wealthy. DFS was to become one of the largest liquor retailers in the world and in 1997, Feeney sold his interest to Louis Vuitton  Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

In 1988, the Forbes Rich List ranked Feeney in the top 20 richest people, with estimated wealth of €1.3billion.  But, in reality his wealth was much less as he had in 1982 transferred much of it – reportedly between $500 million and $800 million –  to a charitable foundation, The Atlantic Foundation. Based in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements in the USA and to give Charles Feeney the anonymity he craved, The Atlantic Foundation was the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  A very private and modest man, the story of Charles (Chuck) Feeney was not well known until the 1990s when in an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he was the benefactor of one of the top 5 philanthropic foundations in the world.

In 1987, the Enniskillen Bombing had a profound impact on Feeney.  His grandmother having emigrated from the same county, meant he had family roots here and he became determined to try to effect change  in Northern Ireland.  He  joined with other Irish Americans liaising between the White House and various parties in Northern Ireland to try to broker a peace agreement.  He had as a particular and personal  agenda the aim of encouraging the Republicans to join in mainstream politics and he personally funded the Sinn Fein Office in Washington D.C.  for some years.  (Atlantic Philanthropies is precluded from funding political parties.)

It was not until 2007 when Conor O’ Cleary, a  well respected correspondent of The Irish Times, published a book : The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly  Made and Gave Away a Fortune, that the truth about Feeney became known.  (Feeney had decided to cooperate with the author to promote ‘Giving While Living’ and inspire wealthy people to donate their wealth during their lifetime). Also in 1997  RTE, the Irish television service,  aired a TV documentary, ‘The Secret Billionaire’  looking at the life of this  extraordinary man.

Universities in Ireland, notably University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Trinity College, Dublin have benefited from donations from the fund of over $1billion.  Many philanthropists will endow projects in return for recognition, but this has never been the case with Chuck Feeney who has shunned public recognition such as honorary degrees, and having buildings named in his honour.  One of my favourite stories that exemplifies what Chuck Feeney  is all about, relates to  Queens University, in Belfast, who in 2007 were building a new library, costing  £44 million. It was to have been called the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Library.  Tony O’Reilly had contributed £4 million in return for ‘naming rights’. Chuck Feeney on the other hand had anonymously provided £10 million  and it was his wish that this should not be made public. (Tony O’Reilly later withdrew his wish to have the library named after him in 1999!)

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney does not own on a house, he does not own a car and his $15 plastic watch is now famous!  He lives modestly, having said that a man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  He has never strayed far from the sense of community he was born into –  one of helping his neighbour, and he has the ability to empathize with people less fortunate than himself who lead difficult lives and who may not have enough to eat.  And so this week, the week of St Patrick’s Day, will see Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, extraordinary Irish American,  inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt but that his benevolence has had a huge impact on life and society in Ireland, and continues to do so through funding for social issues from The Atlantic Philanthropies, including fighting ageism, of particular interest to this blogger.

The website of The  Atlantic Philanthropies can be viewed here.

For more on the Irish American Hall of Fame click here.

To see more about Conor O’Cleary’s book on Charles Feeney, click here

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European e-inclusion awards 2012 – inspiration in action

Attended by 1,150 people, followed through internet live-streaming by another 4,000 and, with more than 1,000 social media contributions, I was honoured, thrilled and humbled to be part of the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2012.

The e-Inclusion Awards were established by the European Commission in 2008  ‘to discover and  celebrate organizations and individuals across Europe who champion new technology and harness the potential of the internet as a means of improving prospects, increasing employability and meeting today’s complex social and economic challenges‘.

Finalists Brochure

As one of only three finalists from across Europe in the category ‘ I am Part of IT  ‘ Personal Stories’ -(Larger Organizations) ‘ I was nominated by Age Action Ireland as a result of winning the Google /Age Action Silver Surfer Award, Social Networking category in 2011 . Age Action is an Irish  national charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. It actively encourages older people ( age 55+ ) to embrace social media. Their ‘Getting Started’ programme, spearheaded by the inspirational Pauline Power, promotes active e-inclusion and has been rolled out to over 6,000 people in the past four years.  Nominated as a finalist from entries from 34 countries,  Pauline accompanied me to the  Digital Media Agenda conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Day 1 was devoted to workshops, and our invitation was specifically for the Social Media workshop and feedback sessions,  with day 2 seeing the plenary sessions in the European Parliament chamber itself. Here we  were honoured to be among delegates to greet  Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, after her very eloquent address to the assembly. Among the academics, industrialists, politicians and social groups participating were  Professor Luciano Floridi from University of Hertfordshire and University of Oxford, Harry van Dorenmalen chairman of IBM Europe, Gyula Vamosi leader of the Roma  (Gypsy) community ; Anna Maria Darmanin , Vice President European Economic and Social Committee.

Whilst the conference focused on the ‘big picture’ with regard to the information society and the  breaking down of barriers to e- inclusion for all citizens of Europe, it is the ways in which ordinary people access and use the internet that demonstrates just how well the high level goals are making a difference to everyday lives.

Anna Maria Darmanin from Malta  presented the e-inclusion awards in the four categories.

There were 3 finalists in each of 4 different categories

I am part of IT – Personal stories, small organizations (< 19 employees).

The three finalists  were

  • Rosanna Nazir and Nila Smart from the Netherlands for their project helping  women looking for work in the Netherlands
  • Joy Matthews from Caerphilly, Wales and the 50+ Positive Action Partnership.
  • Elton Kalica , Italy . Elton was a most worthy and inspirational winner of this category . Arriving in Italy from Albania he found himself in prison for a long time. Through ICT skills he improved his capabilities,  did two university degrees  and now, having been released he has a good job on the ‘outside’; helping prisoners.

I am part of IT – Personal stories ,big organizations(>19 employees) 

The three finalists were

  • Marek Sikora, Chezh Republic. Marek was the first visually impaired ECDL tester in the Czech republic and he set up a not for profit organization Eye-T.cz to enable visiually impaired people take ICT skills tests.
  • Myself, Angela Gallagher, Republic of Ireland with Age Action , who in spite of living in a rural location without the benefit of broadband has embraced social media. My  experience of how technology can change a person’s life will hopefully inspire more older people to take the plunge and learn how to use computers and the internet.
  • Siemon Dekelver from Belgium had a story about ability, not disability. He was a most inspirational and worthy winner of this category, with WAI-NOT which provides mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn IT skills and lead happy and independent socially interactive lives.

Be part of IT –  small organizations .

Finalists were

  • From Romania – a project encouraging e training for 1.8 million people in Romania by reducing the skills gap between rural and urban communities
  • Inforum, Hungary – a project showing how kids and grandparents can encourage one another
  • Storybook Dads – UK were worthy winners –  the simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve the lives of families of a parent in prison was truly moving. Imprisoned parents record stories for children to be involved in their lives. The initiative has been shown to cut reoffending.

Be part of IT – big organizations.

The three finalists were

  • UK Online Centres  which help communities deal with social and digital exclusion . A network of 3,800 online communities spreads the word on digital inclusion.
  • Barcelona Activa,  Spain that promotes ICT training and skills  to improve employability
  • The Information Society Development Foundation Poland –  local libraries as agents for digital change. Thousands of librarians in thousands of remote communities have been trained to help otherwise excluded communities become e-included.

The judges felt that both the Barcelona Activa and Information Society Development Foundation from Poland were such extraordinary projects that touched the lives of so many, both were declared winners.

Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice President European Economic & Social Committee  (on extreme right) with finalists in the e-inclusion awards.

Each finalist had a wonderful story to tell. Each story was thoroughly inspirational, and each story was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of ordinary people who through personal efforts and dedication, made their own lives and the lives of others, extraordinary.

I am grateful  to Age Action Ireland for nominating me and especially to   Pauline Power who was with me in Brussels;  to my son Damian, author of his own excellent blog http://irishamericancivilwar.com/ for encouraging me to get started and for his  support in setting up this blog, and to the over 20,000 visitors to this site. Thank you all!

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Bealtaine:Celebrating change,celebrating age

Bealtaine is almost upon us again here in Ireland. With lengthening days, the last of the trees are allowing their lime green leaves to unfurl and the wind has made beautiful pink swirling carpets of cherry blossom petals on the  footpaths to cheer our still chilly mornings. The pink-tinged buds of the magnificent white hawthorn blossom are swelling and  the great swathe of gorse on the top of the hill behind my house is beginning to show promise of the sulphur yellow spectacle to come when it opens its tens of thousands of  flowers to the warmth of the sun. Together they will create the awesome spectacle that is Ireland in the month of May.

The entire top of this hill will be aglow with millions of sulphur yellow blossoms in a few days time.

Bealtaine (the Irish word for May) is the time of the ancient Festival of Bealtaine, an ancient fire festival heralding the transition between the seasons. Bealtaine heralds change – an appropriate time then for the internationally acclaimed Bealtaine Festival in Ireland celebrating and enjoying the talents  of older people.

A year ago I wrote about this joyful  celebration here and how it has been emulated in other countries.  Over 120,000 Irish people took part in this celebration of age last year.  2012 is European year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations so this year the focus will be on bringing generations together to explore the question : What kind of old do you want to be ?  On May 8 – 10th a major global conference will take place in Dublin with the theme of ‘ Creating  New Old’.

The  Bealtaine  Festival is spearheaded by Age and Opportunity  –  a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society, with the Bealtaine Festival concentrating  on greater participation by older people in the arts.  Libraries, museums, theatres, cinemas, active retirement groups , care centres, beaches, and woods will resound to sounds of the celebration of being older during this wonderful month of change in Ireland. A list of events taking place in all counties of Ireland can be seen here .

References

Age and Opportunity

Bealtaine

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Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15th

June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – established by the United Nations to raise awareness of Elder Abuse within society. We in Ireland are very aware of even more allegations of physical abuse in a care centre, as reported last week in the media. Elder abuse is on the rise with almost 1,900 cases reported in 2009. 

A new report just published draws on feedback from older people themselves. Interestingly for those of us on the brink of being ‘older’ they recognize that changes in relationships and dignity happen at a subtle level, and often over a period of time. As mental and physical capacity diminishes, dependence increases, and older people become aware that as their vulnerability increases, so it becomes easier to mistreat them or harm them.

Abuse of the elderly can manifest itself in many ways: Physical, Psychological, Financial, Sexual or Neglect. Often it is perpetrated by someone well known to the elderly person.

Elderly folk love visits and good conversation. If you know of an elderly person who may be vulnerable, do visit often and establish a bond with them so that they may confide in you if all is not well.

The study entitled ‘A total indifference to our Dignity‘ was funded by the Center for Ageing Research and Development and produced by Age Action Ireland.

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Bealtaine: Pushing the boat out

Surely May is the most fabulous of all months in the Irish countryside! The snow-white Blackthorn flowers give way to the blossom laden arching branches of the Hawthorn, or May blossom. Often alongside is to be found the vibrant yellow of whins, or gorse, and together they make the most beautiful spectacle in the Irish countryside as they light up miles and miles of hedgerows. The Irish word for May is ‘Bealtaine’ (pronounced Baal-tin-a) which means ‘Bright Fire’. How appropriate then that May was chosen as the month to celebrate the creativity of older age, with the annual month-long Bealtaine Festival taking place across all of Ireland.

Now in its 16th year, the Bealtaine Festival  happens in Art centres, museums, libraries, theatres, Active Retirement Groups, community clubs, care centres, even beaches! Anyplace where the talents of older people, whether professionals or first timers, can be showcased.The ethos is one of celebration, empowerment, fun and confidence-building by the participants, whether as performers, organizers or audiences. In 2010, over 100,000 people participated in the event. This cultural innovation is unrivalled anywhere else in the world, but other countries are establishing similar festivals modelled on Ireland’s success, in Germany, Scotland and Wales, for example.

Bealtaine is spearheaded by the Age & Opportunity organization and part funded by the Arts Council. Age & Opportunity is a non-profit organization working to promote participation by older people in various aspects of society. The Bealtaine Festival, one of its major initiatives,  concentrates on greater participation by older people in the arts.  With a theme for 2011 of  ‘Push the boat out, whatever the sea’ (a line from the poem ‘At Eighty’, by Edwin Morgan) there are hundreds of events taking place all over Ireland. A Festival Programme is available here .

The Bealtaine Festival was independently evaluated by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at University College Galway. Their study revealed that participation or attendance at events had positive effects on well-being and morale as well as self-esteem and self-confidence. Social connections were improved as new relationships were formed. Over 86% of participants said it improved their quality of life. This research underpins the value to society of a programme for involvement of older people  in the arts, especially as the age profile of our population increases.  It follows that it also underpins the wonderful work being undertaken by Age & Opportunity, work that is worthy of  the support of all of us.

References

Age & Opportunity

Bealtaine Festival

Poem  At Eighty

Evaluation of Bealtaine Festival Report 

Irish Centre for Social Gerontology 

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Speaking Up and Speaking Out!

This is the first in a series of posts about organizations and groups in Ireland actively involved in helping to change the discourse around being older in Ireland. 

GET VOCAL AND BE HEARD

The GET VOCAL initiative is a programme spearheaded by Age & Opportunity and funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. The aim is to encourage older people to speak for themselves in promoting their own concerns and causes. Who knows best about being older than older people themselves?!

Age & Opportunity do this by working with national and local organizations dedicated to social change in relation to the older generation. Networks and groups plan projects that are in turn supported by Age & Opportunity. Sometimes they can even give a small grant to help with the projects.

The stated main goal is to promote networks of older people who can have a say in issues of concern to them, such as transport, health  services, rights for older people, and living in isolation. They are involved in Kerry, Cavan, Leitrim, Wexford, Tolka, Finglas, Wicklow and Meath. They also have a project with members of the Simon community, highlighting the needs of older homeless people around declining health, dying and death. Older members of  The Gay & Lesbian Community also have particular needs and issues with their lives as they age and there is an initiative involving them.

It is important that society as a whole understands the issues that are of concern to older people and hopefully, dear readers, you will one day be older too!

You can read about the Get Vocal Projects here.

Previous post on The Atlantic Philanthropies here.

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Celebrating Irishness: Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney

Charles Feeney was born to a working class family in New Jersey, USA in the early 1930’s. His father’s mother hailed from near Kinawley, in Co Fermanagh, from where she emigrated to the USA.

Charles 'Chuck ' Feeney

In the 1960’s he co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, which sold luxury goods ‘duty free’ in Honolulu and Hong Kong and which eventually became hugely successful, making the partners very wealthy. DFS was to become one of the largest liquor retailers in the world and in 1997, Feeney sold his interest to Louis Vuitton  Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

In 1988, the Forbes Rich List ranked Feeney in the top 20 richest people, with estimated wealth of €1.3billion.  But, in reality his wealth was much less as he had in 1982 transferred much of it – reportedly between $500 million and $800 million –  to a charitable foundation, The Atlantic Foundation. Based in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements in the USA and to give Charles Feeney the anonymity he craved, The Atlantic Foundation was the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  A very private and modest man, the story of Charles (Chuck) Feeney was not well known until the 1990s when in an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he was the benefactor of one of the top 5 philanthropic foundations in the world.

In 1987, the Enniskillen Bombing had a profound impact on Feeney.  His grandmother having emigrated from the same county, meant he had family roots here and he became determined to try to effect change  in Northern Ireland.  He  joined with other Irish Americans liaising between the White House and various parties in Northern Ireland to try to broker a peace agreement.  He had as a particular and personal  agenda the aim of encouraging the Republicans to join in mainstream politics and he personally funded the Sinn Fein Office in Washington D.C.  for some years.  (Atlantic Philanthropies is precluded from funding political parties.)

It was not until 2007 when Conor O’ Cleary, a  well respected correspondent of The Irish Times, published a book : The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly  Made and Gave Away a Fortune, that the truth about Feeney became known.  (Feeney had decided to cooperate with the author to promote ‘Giving While Living’ and inspire wealthy people to donate their wealth during their lifetime). Also in 1997  RTE, the Irish television service,  aired a TV documentary, ‘The Secret Billionaire’  looking at the life of this  extraordinary man.

Universities in Ireland, notably University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Trinity College, Dublin have benefited from donations from the fund of over $1billion.  Many philanthropists will endow projects in return for recognition, but this has never been the case with Chuck Feeney who has shunned public recognition such as honorary degrees, and having buildings named in his honour.  One of my favourite stories that exemplifies what Chuck Feeney  is all about, relates to  Queens University, in Belfast, who in 2007 were building a new library, costing  £44 million. It was to have been called the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Library.  Tony O’Reilly had contributed £4 million in return for ‘naming rights’. Chuck Feeney on the other hand had anonymously provided £10 million  and it was his wish that this should not be made public. (Tony O’Reilly later withdrew his wish to have the library named after him in 1999!)

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney does not own on a house, he does not own a car and his $15 plastic watch is now famous!  He lives modestly, having said that a man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  He has never strayed far from the sense of community he was born into –  one of helping his neighbour, and he has the ability to empathize with people less fortunate than himself who lead difficult lives and who may not have enough to eat.  And so this week, the week of St Patrick’s Day, will see Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, extraordinary Irish American,  inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt but that his benevolence has had a huge impact on life and society in Ireland, and continues to do so through funding for social issues from The Atlantic Philanthropies, including fighting ageism, of particular interest to this blogger.

The website of The  Atlantic Philanthropies can be viewed here.

For more on the Irish American Hall of Fame click here.

To see more about Conor O’Cleary’s book on Charles Feeney, click here.

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