Countess Albina du Boisrouvay has had an eclectic life having spent her childhood years in New York before travelling the world. She has been a Journalist, a designer and even set up Albina Productions, which saw her produce, a total of 22 movies in 18 years. However, in 1986 her son, Francois- Xavier, was killed in a helicopter accident whilst working in Mali as a search and rescue pilot. His loss prompted Albina to sell her businesses and plough the sale proceeds into a new program.
In 1989 the FXB Foundation and FXB International was created in Francois – Xavier’s honour to help some of the worlds poorest. Albina Developed a three year holistic training program to help eradicate poverty.
“When I started, my aim was to devise a program that helped to raise these children and families out of poverty, but to do that successfully we had to keep it holistic. Housing, family, healthcare, and education leading to self-sufficiency, we added to these pillars or drivers’ a fifth, the business element. This was quite different. In those days people would often come in and give people micro-credit or come in and build a school. But that wasn’t holistic, that’s not what we did. The business worked so well because the program surrounded it. Micro credit wouldn’t have worked they were too poor.
As soon as you meet Du Boisrouvray it’s clear to see she is a force to be reckoned with and at the world economic forum in Davos she quizzed the pioneer of micro-credit, Muhammad Yunnus. “I said could I ask your advice? We don’t do what you do, should we be changing?’ He thought for a moment but his reply was no ‘do what your doing’” I was a fantastic and affirming moment she says that she knew FXB was on the right path.
People think they can throw cash at a problem, she says, and it will go away. “All they’re doing there is letting loose Pandora’s Box. There’s a need for education, for greater knowledge on healthcare. Money alone is not the answer. At FXB, we provide someone with a toolkit for their life, and tools they can pass on to others, which they can share.”
I ask how this was taken, not often do people like change on such a large scale. “Oh very badly! They didn’t like what I was doing. Though now Worldbank and Care have come to the realisation that it is the only way to address extreme poverty. Not that I’m critising micro-credit but that only works at the first level of poverty not for the people that are below that.”
“Typically FXB invests around $345 over the 3 years for each family. In the first year we invest 100%, in this year the heads of the family are able to invest and save. In the second year we invest 75% and in the third year we invest 50 per cent. During that time we help with savings, cash flow and with training on how to manage and invest their money ready for when they graduate. There are only 80-100 families taking part each year, we keep it small, it allows us to track what’s going. We have a small team too, maybe only three main people but there is a lot of pitching in from volunteers.”
“We have an 86 per cent success rate. It’s difficult to calculate these rates but when we have been back we see that people have still broken the cycle and still in business. I went to visit one of our graduates, a Uganden women called Nite, 10 or 15 years after she first went through the program. When she graduated she had bought a cow, when I went back she had 4 cows, some pigs, chickens and she had bought some land, all her children had been through school and had gone on to University. “If you ask her how she did it, Nite will say, ‘I joined FXBVillage.’ Joined, not that FXB gave her some money – she joined. She became an actor of her own destiny. She gained know-how, and her courage, her resilience, her strength did the rest.”
“In Columbia we set up an FXBvillage again along the same holistic principles 4 years ago. I went down once it had been set up and I went to see the results and assess who was successful. There was a fantastic women that suffered from AIDS she asked for a washing machine, I remember thinking what on earth does she want with a washing machine? She rented it out! When I went back last year she had 7 washing machines. When people have the drive for enterprise they succeed. We are just the facilitators to get them on track. One of our board members calls us the basement option because we pull people out from below poverty so that they are able to break that cycle.”
In a world where it is commonplace to see war, child soldiers and death on the TV I ask what the biggest challenge has been. “I think the biggest challenge was taking the program that I started in Africa and taking it other continents and cultures. They all have their different cultures and problems. Looking at how we can overcome these different challenges and engage the community, It’s a hard problem in fact we are still working it, its not an instant fix.”
If you wish to make a donation or support FXB’s work please go to www.fxb.org