A surprising solution to global poverty, from one of the wealthiest men in the world.

"Can a chicken change the world?"

It's an intriguing question. It appeared on a minimalist poster board outside the elevator on the 68th floor of 4 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan on June 8, 2016.

"It begins with a chicken," read another sign.


Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

Behind the signs was a makeshift chicken coop — built out of selectively shabby wood and wire — placed amid stunning views of lower Manhattan and the Hudson River.

Inside the makeshift chicken coop were 13 chickens and ... one of the richest men in the world.

Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

Yep, that's right. Billionaire tech CEO and philanthropist Bill Gates was standing in a chicken coop.

Gates, the godfather of Silicon Valley and the man against whom all American wealth is measured, really isn't your stereotypical cartoon billionaire, like Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons."

In fact, despite his Burns-esque body language in the picture above, he's kind of the opposite. Instead of dumping chemicals in the local watering hole or stowing away cash in the Cayman Islands, Bill and his wife Melinda spend their time and incredible wealth doing ... well ... good things.

So, what good things was Gates planning to do with all these chickens?

The chickens are part of his latest initiative: Coop Dreams.

Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

Started by Heifer International, Coop Dreams is now supported by Gates, who is donating 100,000 chickens to extremely impoverished communities all over the world.

The Gates Foundation does a lot of work with agriculture around the world, although so far its focus has largely been on seeds.

While Gates says they've made good strides creating seeds that are "more productive and disease-resistant," he also explained, over the chorus of clucking birds, "There’s a huge part of it now that has to do with livestock."

Livestock — in this case chickens — is a gift that keeps on giving, Gates says. Chickens are an economic opportunity that literally multiplies itself and can help lift people out of poverty.

A Coop Dreams starter kit includes a rooster and several hens.

Within a year, farmers can have hundreds of egg-laying chickens. They can eat the chickens, eat the eggs, or sell the chickens in nearby cities for around $5 U.S. They can then use the money to buy food, medicine, or anything else they need.

In time, a farmer who raises and sells 250 chickens per year can bring in around $1,250 annually.

Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

Once Coop Dreams hands out the starter kits, they stick around to teach participants how to house, feed, vaccinate, and otherwise care for the new flocks.

Right now in West Africa, only 5% of households own chickens, Gates says. He hopes Coop Dreams will help get that number up to about 30%.

To be fair, not every country is interested in chicken gifts. The government of Bolivia, led by President Evo Morales, rejected Gates' chicken donation because of its policy of turning down Western development aid.

The chickens are gifted to small, independent farmers for their own benefit, not major farms that stimulate the country-wide economy.

Annie Bergman has seen the world-changing power of chickens firsthand.

As part of her job as the global communications Director for Heifer International, Bergman visits communities that have received chickens to see how the project is affecting their lives.

Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

"We did a lot of earthquake relief with the folks that were affected [in Nepal] last year," Bergman told Upworthy of her recent trip.

"I saw one woman who had been raising chickens and lost a number of her livestock due to exposure and shock after the earthquake. [She] took her savings and reinvested specifically in chickens. When we went in with her, with her chickens, her face just immediately lit up. It was clear that this was the path for her to continue, even though she had lost everything months beforehand."

As the parable goes: "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." In the case of Coop Dreams, instead of fish, it's chickens. And instead of men, it's women.

"You can go through crop by crop," Gates told us. "Some crops — both men and women do. Some are almost entirely men."

Chicken-rearing, which requires regular tending, is a chore controlled almost entirely by the women of the household.

Mbene Sarr, a Coop Dreams participant. Image via YouTube/Heifer International.

There's a doubly cool benefit to giving women the responsibility of managing the chicken coops: Study after study shows that when income starts flowing to women in these communities, everyone benefits.

Why? According to Gates, "If you get the income going to the mother, then it’s used for nutrition and school fees a higher percentage of the time than if it’s going to the male."

The most amazing part of Coop Dreams is the way it encourages recipients to spread the wealth — "wealth" being chickens, of course.

Participants in the Coop Dreams program are required — yes, required — to donate their flock's first offspring to another family in need. Heifer International calls it "passing on the gift."

Farmers generally donate their chicks to another family in their community, and often donate to the younger generation, which has a multiplicative effect on their community's ability to escape extreme poverty.

Photo by Jon Comulada/Upworthy.

So — what's the answer? Can a chicken change the world?

Extreme poverty is a problem that is both gigantic and multifaceted. There is no one solution to it, and of course Bill Gates knows that.

Perhaps the irony of unveiling a solution to global poverty in one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world wasn't lost on Bill. Maybe it was even intentional. We can all help the world move forward, and we don't have to be billionaires to do it. We just have to be paying attention.

And yes, the chickens are a tiny, clucking, head-bopping step in that direction.

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Maria Ducasse of Brooklyn is an inspiring example of how one person can unite a community to ensure no one loses their pet because of hardship.

Three years ago, she founded East New York Dog Lovers a nonprofit that has grown to have 29 foster homes, 200 volunteers, and helped reconnect more than 50 dogs with their people. It's a safety net where struggling pet owners get emergency fostering, help with medical bills, and food for their fur babies.

"Our biggest mission is to end pet surrendering," Maria told Chewy. "So whatever help may be needed—food, vet care, whatever you need to keep your pet at home—we are willing to supply and help you."

Maria has arranged for people struggling with homelessness, domestic violence, and medical emergencies to connect with fosters who care for their pets until they're back on their feet. Her hard work keeps families intact and pets safe.

"We just keep getting bigger," Maria says. "Every time we go out there and help somebody, they're like, 'I'm in—how can I help?'"

Maria's wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Community Pet Foster."

Cherie Garcia posted her son's coming out letter on Twitter.

Cherie Garcia managed to score some major mom points from her response to her child's creative—yet slightly flawed—coming out letter.

Using colorful cut-out letters, Garcia's son Crow made a short letter coming out as transgender, which looked something like a ransom note. The message was meant to be: Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of your very own son.

Garcia was nonchalant about the announcement, but she did notice something unsettling that every mom would notice. And she was quick to point it out.

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Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

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That was a simple question posed by a professor to his students. This video initially came out in 2019, but recently was reposted by @thementorhouse on TikTok and has gone viral yet again.

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