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Gillian Morantz, left, and Adrian Schauer in Kenya in 2011.

Handout

The organizers: Adrian Schauer and Gillian Morantz

The pitch: creating the Madiro Fund

The cause: to fund health care programs in Africa

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When Adrian Schauer proposed to his fiancée Gillian Morantz in 2011, he didn’t offer her a traditional engagement ring. Instead, he vowed to create a charitable foundation and wrote out a $25,000 cheque to get it started.

“She still said ‘Yes,’ ” Mr. Schauer recalled from the couple’s home in Montreal.

Mr. Schauer, a technology entrepreneur, and Dr. Morantz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at McGill University, created the foundation and launched the Madiro Fund in 2012 to support health care projects in Africa. They contributed $250,000 over several years and partnered on a couple of projects with the global health programs at the University of Toronto and McGill. “It was good and we generated some papers and some interesting research. But it didn’t really feel like the impact we were looking for,” Mr. Schauer said.

Last month Mr. Schauer’s health care company, AlayaCare, raised $225-million through a financing. Mr. Schauer sold $11-million worth of company shares and donated $10-million to the foundation to relaunch the Madiro Fund. “That was at a scale now where we could try and really do something meaningful,” he said.

To help manage Madiro they brought in James Fraser, who founded Dignitas International, which developed life-saving HIV and tuberculosis treatment in hard to reach communities. “There’s no shortage of innovative programs, but the hard part is getting them to scale and ideally getting them to sustainability,” Mr. Schauer said.

One of their first projects is with a social enterprise in the Netherlands called Healthy Entrepreneurs, which works in several countries in Africa. The organization trains people to become local health care providers and provides them with technological and product support. Madiro is helping expand the program to more communities and potentially to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations.

Mr. Schauer and Dr. Morantz, both 42, are exploring further ideas and they hope to travel to Africa once the pandemic recedes to look for more projects. Working on Madiro “is the most exciting part of my week now,” Mr. Schauer said. “It’s really, really rewarding.”

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