A woman asked Melinda Gates to adopt and raise her two children while holding them because she was so poor

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates interacting with women of the Musahar community in their locality of Jamsaut village on 23 March 2011

Melinda Gates is both one of the world's wealthiest people and most active philanthropists.

She has run the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for 20 years and made about 60 trips to impoverished areas during that time. There, she meets with locals to better understand the needs of the communities and learn how her money can help.Advertisement

One particularly powerful moment happened on a trip to India, where she met with a local mother, Meena. Gates described the moment in her book, The Moment of Lift, and in an interview with Business Insider's US Editor-in-Chief, Alyson Shontell

The mother had given birth to her second child a few weeks prior. Toward the end of the conversation, Gates asked Meena about her hopes and dreams for her new son.

Meena grew silent and looked down at the floor for a long time. She then explained that her family was so poor, she did not have any hopes for his future at all. She had no idea how she would feed or educate them.

Then she said: "My only hope would be if you took him home with you."

Meena pointed to her other child. "Him too." Read more: Melinda Gates reveals the secret to a strong marriage and the surprisingly simple answer to the world's toughest problemAdvertisement

Gates was stunned. She apologized and said she couldn't do that.  

"The pain she described was beyond anything I could imagine - she felt the only way to help her children live a good life was to find them another mother," Gates wrote.

The trip marked a "turning point" in Gates' work, when the philanthropist decided to increase access to family planning medicines in impoverished nations. Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to bring high-quality contraceptive services to 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020.Advertisement

"I'm there as a Western woman in a pair of khaki pants and a T-shirt, and [Meena] just knows that life would be better for her son...she thought their lives would be better if I took them back to the United States," Gates told Business Insider.

"It's heartbreaking to be in these situations and to see parents who are doing their absolute best but because of their circumstances can't feed or educate their kids. It's something we can do something about as a world - and we should do something about it."

Read Melinda Gates' full interview with Business Insider, or watch below »