On Wednesday, Melinda Gates announced in London that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to donate more than $1 billion to increase birth control access globally over the next eight years. On Saturday Mrs. Gates will fly back to Seattle just in time to celebrate the news with the young and glitzy crowd at Agency– a “millennial-planned, glam, cocktail bash,” aimed at getting 20- and 30- somethings interested in global health.
Kristen Eddings – the party’s creator and winner of the 2006 Miss Washington pageant – couldn’t be more thrilled. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to snag the leader of the world’s largest private foundation to speak at her event.
It doesn’t hurt that Mrs. Gates has a lot she wants to talk about right now. She is “coming back to tell everybody in her own backyard why she doesn’t think contraception should be controversial,” said Eddings, who is currently Program Associate at the Washington Global Health Alliance.
Eddings created Agency (formerly known as Party with a Purpose) to present her generation with a fun way to learn about and take action in the field of global health. The party will feature food, drinks, dancing – and Edding’s live on-stage interview with Melinda Gates.
Eddings says Agency is not necessarily geared toward people who want to devote their lives to doing medical work abroad – or even to a career in global health. The point of the party is to show how any skill can be applied toward helping to improve global health.
“We want people at Agency to think, ‘huh, I work at Microsoft, and I promote Xbox all day, how can I figure out how to use my marketing skills for global health?’” said Eddings.
The party will be held at McCaw Hall on Saturday July 14, at 7:30 p.m., and should last well into the night. Organizers expect over 1,000 guests. The $47 ticket gets you a variety of appetizers, two drink tickets, music, dancing and of course the chance to hear Melinda Gates. Ticket proceeds will go to Health Alliance International, a global health organization based at the University of Washington.
Last year the event raised $34,000 for the Infectious Disease Research Institute, which was almost three-times as much as it raised in 2010 for PATH. This year they plan to raise more than $47,000.
Eddings, who has worked at the Washington Global Health Alliance for close to five years, says her interest in health was first piqued when she taught English at an orphanage in Sierra Leone. She saw many children who were too sick to attend class because they didn’t have access to basic health services.
“I thought education was the key to the future of any young person,” she said of her instinct to volunteer as a teacher–before she realized “that it’s actually education and health that are the keys to a great future.”
It’s that realization that Eddings hopes to spread at the party on Saturday—especially through her on-stage interview with Melinda Gates. Eddings is no stranger to the spotlight: after winning Miss Washington in 2006 she went on to the top ten in the national Miss America competition – but Saturday’s interview is a big one.
“I’m terrified. Well, it’s terrified excitement,” said Eddings. “I feel very prepared, but Melinda Gates is somebody I’ve looked up to for a very long time, and I’m 27 and I don’t interview such huge global figures on a regular basis.”
She plans to ask Mrs. Gates about the Foundation’s birth control fund, and how that fits in with her Catholic faith. But she also wants to ask her more personal questions, like what it’s like to share an office with her husband. She hopes that taking a familiar, conversational tone, will resonate with her audience.
But no matter what direction the interview goes, Eddings hopes that “people will walk away feeling inspired and informed.”
Where: McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St, Seattle
When: Saturday July 14, Doors at 6; Event begins at 7:30