LIFE: Building sustainable families for only $0.38 a day


A mother (Saray) and her child (Nayeth) at their home in Barrio Las Estrellas. Photo: FXB

How much money do you spend each day? What are your basic expenses? Think about your rent, food, transport? Take a few moments to think about it. Ok, so what do you think is the lowest amount you could live with each day? Do you have a number in mind?

Most people I ask say between $25 and $50 but if they really toughed it out, they could manage around $15. Well.. HALF the world’s population, (around three billion people), live on at least six times less  – only $2.50 per day.

A boy stands next to his home in a poor neighborhood of Barranquilla. Photo: FXB
A boy stands next to his home in a poor neighborhood of Barranquilla. Photo: FXB

FXB isn’t about charity. They don’t give money. They give independence.

Incredibly, of those, one point three billion are living in extreme poverty and are forced to survive on under $1.25 per day. Imagine living on less than $1.25. That’s $37.50 a month – to cover food, shelter, transportation, medication, etc. Now imagine you’re a single mother with three young children. How would you survive?

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many Colombians. In fact, 28% of the population of Colombia survives on less than two dollars a day. People live in extreme poverty for any number of reasons – but here in Colombia, a high proportion are from displacement due to the armed conflict.  Approximately three million people have been stripped of their homes, their possessions and lives and abandoned in the urban streets of the city. Lacking formal education and without access to gainful employment, most of these people are destitute.

A woman stands with her child in Barrio San Francisco in Barranquilla.
A woman stands with her child in Barrio San Francisco in Barranquilla.
destitute dɛstɪtjuːt – adjective
Extremely poor and lacking the means to provide for oneself.

Thirty years ago, in 1986, a young man by the name of François-Xavier Bagnoud, was killed in a helicopter accident in Mali, while navigating through a sandstorm. Francois-Xavier was a rescue pilot who up until that fateful day, had been involved in some 300 life-saving missions.  Three years later, in his honor, his mother launched FXB, an aid organization which would go on to positively impact some seventeen million people across the globe. Right now, FXB is running some 26 programs across 7 countries.

Here in Barranquilla, FXB has been running programs since 1995, initially targeting people with HIV and in 2011, moving into programs to support families in poverty.

Children in La Luz celebrate Christmas with FXB. Photo: FXB
Children in La Luz celebrate Christmas with FXB. Photo: FXB

In total, since its introduction to Barranquilla in 1995, FXB has already directly impacted an enormous amount of people. 15,000 have been provided with HIV training, and 200 families (860 people) have been rescued from poverty, including 160 children. Each of these families have been transformed into self-sustaining units through participation in FXB “Villages”. Referred to as a “best practice” by both United Way and UNAIDS, FXB’s Village model has been proven incredibly effective and cost efficient, costing just $250,000 over three years to save 100 families – that’s $140 per person per year, or $0.38 per day. This value includes the entire operation including infrastructure and salaries.

The FXB Village poverty eradication program focuses on only the most destitute families in a chosen region and provides holistic support and education to help families achieve personal stability and self-reliance. Program inductees are chosen based on a detailed list of parameters including the number of children in the family, living conditions, the source of income, social stability, and most importantly, their desire to change their situation. The overall objective of FXB Village is driving economic autonomy, through personal intervention and the development and implementation of personalized income generating activities.

Each Village program lasts three years and follows a very specific regime:

1: In the first year, families are provided with everything they need to bring them to a stable, healthy plateau. They receive full health care, nutritious sustenance, safe shelter, psychological support and basic education. In 365 days, participants are raised from a desolate, decaying state, to a point where they are ready to begin considering their future lives. Children receive uniforms, books, and school supplies and are enrolled in local schools. For the first year, FXB covers all of the families needs and costs so that they can focus entirely on becoming healthy and stable.

New students receive kits with all of their school supples. Photo: FXB
New students receive kits with all of their school supplies. Photo: FXB

2: In the second year, participants continue to receive the same basic care as in the first year but also receive substantial training in managing finances, and starting and running a business, the secret sauce of poverty eradication. They’re encouraged to take an active role in their future lives by deciding on a small business they’d like to own and then working to build it out with the help of the FXB team. Once they’ve opened the business, they’re required to start paying 25% of their expenses. Typical businesses include tiendas (corner stores), meal preparation, cleaning services and bicycle taxis.

3: In the final year, participants are further weaned off the system, required to cover half of their expenses. Training and business support continues and families are encouraged to find ways to work with each other to build solid communities. By the end of the third year, families have an operating business which is providing 100% of the income necessary for their positive survival. Physical and mental health are superior and families are stronger, motivated to further improve their conditions.

year ratio

Impressively, there have been several different studies performed which have demonstrated 85% or higher success. Even after 5 years, 85% of families continue to be self-sustainable, living above the poverty line.

Currently, in Barranquilla, there is an FXB Village in La Luz supporting 85 families (600 people). This is the final year of what has been a very successful program and as many as 90% of the families who started three years ago have now become self-sustainable. That means 540 people have been lifted out of extreme poverty – an AMAZING statistic.

A tienda started by an FXB family in Colombia.
A tienda started by an FXB family in Colombia. Photo: FXB

As the FXB Village program in La Luz winds down, Director Cécile Lavergne is looking at various other communities around Barranquilla to implement a new Village program. One possible area is Las Flores and another is Isla de Salamanca. In both cases, there are plenty of people in dire need of assistance and given the success of the FXB model so far in barrios San Francisco and La Luz, we know the impact will be dramatic. To get a new project underway to help a further 100 families, Cécile needs US$250,000 and at this point, she is actively looking for donations. Past supporters have included progressive companies such as CajacopiGlobal fund, KindermissionNutrinfantilCamaguey, plus of course, both FXB USA and FXB International.

“Poverty is not a simple lack of money; it is a debilitating state of deprivation“
– Albina du Boisrouvray (FXB Founder)

People right here in Barranquilla need your help and FXB has proven their ability to make that a reality. Making a donation to FXB is easy. Most people set up automatic, regular donations – Click here to find out how.


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