All of our heartstrings feel a tug when we find ourselves staring into the face of poverty. We see a malnourished child’s face on a brochure from a far away place, hear news stories of migrants fleeing war, and those who have survived natural disasters.
I think we all want to help. More often than not, we go on with our lives and forget the stories which briefly captured our attention. I suppose it’s natural to look away from that kind of pain and uncertainty, but sadly, even our world leaders can not agree about how to reduce poverty and tackle other issues.
1.2 billion people currently live in extreme poverty, living on or under $1.25 a day.
After 26 years of “successfully disrupting the cycle of extreme poverty,” Albina has made her experiences available to policy makers, non-profits, NGOs, governments, and community leaders. The FXBVillage Toolkit and Planning Guide was developed in conjunction with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University and the following individuals:
- Amartya Sen, PhD: Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard; Nobel Laureate
- Jennifer Leaning, MD, SMH: Director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard
- Julio Frenk: Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health
- Sudhir Anand: Research Director of Global Equity Initiative at Harvard
I was able to hear these inspiring individuals speak on Monday at the Toolkit Launch in Boston, where I gained valuable insight into sustainable poverty relief.
The FXB model is a “three-year program that helps the extreme poor reach self-sufficiency by simultaneously tackling five drivers of poverty: food, healthcare, education, housing and income”.
When Albina began her fight against poverty, she did not follow the methods of most organizations at that time, which typically used direct monetary assistance or microcredit. She took a step further. Basing her strategy on the philosophy of Jonathan Mann, she has, since 1991, successfully helped 80,000 people out of extreme poverty.
Direct donations and micro-lending are not wrong, Albina, suggests, however those options must occur after addressing basic needs. Mann highlighted the critical link between health and human rights, and Albina put it into practice. FXB goes beyond providing medical treatments or building latrines, the organization addresses social issues through incorporating family planning, support groups dealing with trauma, teaching business skills, and how to manage savings. One aspect of poverty is not approached without the others in mind.
Albina mentioned that investing in women and children is crucial for poverty reduction.
In the first year of the program, FXB fully supports a participating family (about $140), in the second year, the family contributes 25%, the third year, the family contributes 50%, and by the 4th year the family no longer relies on FXB.
Albina explained the main reason for FXB’s success is due to flexibility and listening to the community. During FXB’s inception, she spent a year in Uganda speaking with local community leaders, individuals, and government officials, learning and listening to find out what the community needed, not by implanting her own ideas.
A part of the FXB model that is not as flexible, but just as important, is the personnel. There are no consultants, no outsiders, only members of the communities who are attached and invested, a ‘family culture’ model, which differentiates FXB from other organizations.
For 26 years Albina has worked to create a strong foundation for eradicating poverty, and she now hopes others will join her. FXB can have even more success if the systems in which it works become more supportive. FXB has some capacity to bring in health and other resources, but in some cases it is limited by forces outside of it’s control, like the quality of the local school and health care systems. Albina dreams that other organizations will collaborate to expand the reach of her program.
Our world is shrinking by the day. So much connects us, and the Internet provides endless opportunities to learn. We are the lucky ones, who have to wonder what we can do to help, rather than be at the receiving end. The FXB model is not the only way, but a tested model, that can guide those in power, and help all of us learn more about sustainable development.
What can be done now has to be done now. – Amartya Sen