Pursuing their passions so that everyone thrives

Man, woman, and two girls posing in front of a palm tree.

Through PATH, Brian Arbogast and Valerie Tarico, and their daughters Brynn and Marley, are helping families thrive. Photo: Courtesy of Valerie Tarico.

“Every baby should have its toes kissed,” says psychologist and writer Valerie Tarico. “The question is, how do you create the conditions so that when children come into the world, their parents are ready to kiss their toes and celebrate them?”

It’s an excellent question.

For Valerie, the answer includes giving every woman access to family planning so she can make the best choices about when to have children. For Brian Arbogast, Valerie’s husband, the conditions include clean water and sanitation. For both, it means supporting PATH—because we’re working on these issues and more.

Two paths out of poverty

Brian and Valerie know how challenging it can be for families living in poverty. They saw it in their travels to India and Africa, including during a visit to a PATH project in South Africa focused on reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

As the couple traveled, they looked for what Brian calls “the highest-leverage opportunities to help people pull themselves out of poverty.”

Valerie shares how she was inspired by a visit to a clinic in Tanzania: “We saw women standing in line, sometimes with a baby in their arms and a toddler by their side, maybe having taken a bus or walked for several hours to get an injectable contraceptive—so they could take care of the children they have rather than having another baby that they weren’t ready for. They knew that when they got to the clinic there might be a stock-out, and they wouldn’t be able to get the services they needed. I was humbled by their tenacity! I want it to be easier for them to take care of themselves and their families.”

What leapt out for Brian were the chronic health problems caused by unclean water and sanitation. “It’s a massive issue that affects children more than anyone else,” he says. “Lack of sanitation leads to half of all hospitalizations in the developing world.”

Back in the United States, these passions quickly infused their work. Brian became the director of the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Valerie advocates for family planning. These causes also inspire their philanthropy.

“All in it together”

Brian and Valerie have also thought deeply about their philosophy of giving. “One of the themes in our approach,” says Valerie, “is wanting to get out in front of problems with solutions that let people take care of their families.” PATH’s targeted solutions fit that criterion—from developing easier-to-use contraceptives to preventing diarrheal disease.

They’re also attracted to PATH’s unique approach. “The way PATH drives innovation and partners to get that innovation to market—that’s one of the things that’s always jumped out at me,” says Brian. “One of the reasons that we’re excited about supporting PATH is there’s a very high return on investment. The outcomes are big and aspirational.”

Ultimately, what underlies their philanthropy is a deep belief in unity, a sense that “we’re all in it together and that in order for any of us to thrive, we need to all be thriving,” says Valerie. “Until that’s happening, there’s work to be done.”