December 11, 2014 / 8:29 PM / 3 years ago

End poverty? Sometimes it really may take a village

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A French countess, who sold off her jewels, artwork and real estate to build an unusual village-based anti-poverty program, plans to release details of the initiative next year as an open source tool-kit for other NGOs.

With assistance from experts at Harvard University and the $100 million she raised from auctions, Albina du Boisrouvray created the FXBVillage model, as part of her FXB International NGO.

The villages, operating on three continents, have lifted some 75,000 people out of poverty since their launch 25 years ago, according to du Boisrouvray.

Originally geared to children and families impoverished by the impact of AIDS, FXBVillages broadened the plan to help all families escape extreme poverty and become self-sufficient after three years.

The NGO cites an 86 percent success rate in achieving that goal. Failures are often due to AIDS-related illness or deaths within the families, said du Boisrouvray at a Harvard Club gathering this week to announce the development of the toolkit.

“It’s a recipe now that’s being put into a methodology that we can share with all people in need,” said du Boisrouvray, who was accompanied by Arlan Fuller, executive director of the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights at Harvard, which will develop the toolkit for use on and off the internet.

Du Boisrouvray founded FXB International to honor her son, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud, a search-and-rescue pilot who died in 1986 at the age of 24 in a helicopter accident in Mali.

The FXBVillage model is unusual because it involves no micro-loans but provides families with three years of funding and services to address what du Boisrouvray calls the five drivers of poverty: lack of access to housing, nutrition, education, a business opportunity and healthcare, including hygiene, clean water and family planning.

FXBVillages, of which there are 32 operating in Africa, Asia and South America, are composed of between 80 and 100 families. All are carefully chosen because their members are the poorest, have the most children and are considered to have the best reputation as workers in their communities.

Over the course of the three-year program, FXB invests about $260,000 in a village to insure that families have the essentials, ranging from houses and food to rucksacks full of school supplies.

This way household heads are free to train for and focus on developing a business, such as farming or furniture-making, to sustain themselves and their families.

In the first year, FXB provides 100 percent of the costs for goods and services with the families paying nothing. In the second year, participants cover 25 percent and in the third year, they split the costs with FXB. By the fourth year, families are expected to be self-sufficient.

About 90 percent of the FXB-trained entrepreneurs are women, many of whom were widowed or abandoned by men due to AIDS, said du Boisrouvray.

“We can rely on women to change the world,” she added.

Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by Maria Caspani

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