Founding of the FXB Center
The founding of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights, in 1993, was the product of the remarkable partnership of the Countess Albina du Boisrouvray and Dr. Jonathan Mann. Countess du Boisrouvray had heard about Mann’s work at the World Health Organization. “To me he was a warrior fighting against AIDS at large,” she wrote, “standing for health and human rights, committed to rescue the discriminated, the most destitute, the most vulnerable ones.” Shortly before they met, Mann had read a news account about a “mysterious countess” who had given a grant to educate health workers in developing countries about pediatric AIDS. “I remember thinking that it was wonderful that such angels existed,” Mann said.
In 1991, one of Albina du Boisrouvray’s charities funded the Global AIDS Policy Coalition at the Harvard School of Public Health, which had Jonathan Mann as its director. A year later, her foundation announced that it was giving $20 million, its largest gift ever, to establish the FXB Center and to pay for construction of the François-Xavier Bagnoud building in Boston, and the François-Xavier Bagnoud Professorship in Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.
About Albina du Boisrouvray
Time Magazine has described Albina du Boisrouvray as an “alchemist” who turned “her private pain into public gold.” Her example of transforming personal tragedy into loving care for the estimated 100 million AIDS orphans and vulnerable children expected in this decade continues to be a global inspiration.
Albina du Boisrouvray spent her childhood in New York and her adolescence traveling around the world. She eventually settled in the Canton of Valais, in Switzerland, where she met and married Bruno Bagnoud. Following the birth of their son, François-Xavier, in 1961, she studied psychology and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris.
She worked as a freelance journalist, notably for the Nouvel Observateur. Her journalistic scoop on the circumstances surrounding the death of Che Guevara was cited by l’Express and by French and Scandinavian television channels. In 1970, together with Juan Goytisolo, she founded Libre, a literary magazine that published the works of several Latin-American writers, namely Plinio Mendoza, Carlos Franqui, Octavio Paz, Claribel Allegria, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Carlos Fuentes.
She founded a film company, Albina Productions, in 1969, and produced 22 movies in 17 years. These included, most notably, Pascal Thomas’s first movie “Les Zozos” (1972), “Police Python” (1975) by Alain Corneau, “L’important c’est d’aimer” (1975) by Andrzei Zulawski, and “Fort Saganne (1984) by Alain Corneau.
In 1985, the French Government appointed du Boisrouvray Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, and she became the first film producer to be awarded France’s “L’Ordre National du Mérite.”
The death of her only child, François-Xavier, at age 24 during a helicopter mission in Mali, precipitated a dramatic change in Albina du Boisrouvray’s life. François-Xavier Bagnoud had been a helicopter pilot who specialized in rescue operations and dedicated his life to providing assistance to others. His death led du Boisrouvray to walk away from a successful career as a film producer to champion the cause of the tens of millions of vulnerable children left in the wake of the devastating AIDS pandemic. She sold her film-production company, most of her personal assets, and joined Bernard Kouchner of Médecins du Monde for two years, accompanying him on a mission to Lebanon. Since then, she has devoted all her energy, creativity, solid experience, and credibility as an entrepreneur to humanitarian causes as well as social development and research on numerous projects worldwide.
In 1989, Albina du Boisrouvray, along with family and friends, founded the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB International), an international non-governmental organization to pursue, in the field of development, the rescue missions that he led, and to perpetuate the values of generosity and compassion that guided François-Xavier’s life, focusing on AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.
The mission of FXB International is to fight poverty and AIDS, and to support orphans and vulnerable children left in the wake of the AIDS pandemic. FXB International offers comprehensive support to the families and communities that care for these children, and advocates for their fundamental rights. The practical application of the inextricable link between health and human rights is at the core of its global strategy and at the heart of every FXB International program. Today, FXB International, with a staff of close to 400 and many volunteers, leads over 100 programs in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.
In 1993, the University of Michigan conferred upon Albina du Boisrouvray a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She was named a John Harvard Fellow by Harvard University in 1996, and, in 2001, Harvard students presented her with the Harvard Project for International Health and Development Award. She also received a Special Recognition Award for “Responding to the HIV/AIDS Orphan Crisis” at the second conference on global strategies for the prevention of HIV transmission from mothers to infants in Montreal, in September 1999.
In 2001, Albina du Boisrouvray was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French Government for her pioneering work in home palliative care projects; FXB Palliative Home Care Centers are located in Paris, France and Sion, Switzerland. Because of the innovative cost-effective projects that she formulated and directed within FXB International, she was selected as a member of the Social Entrepreneurs Group of the Schwab Foundation. The 54 social entrepreneurs who form the group participate in the annual Davos World Economic Forum, and present and share their expertise with world business leaders in the civil and public sectors.
In 2002, she received the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe, together with Xanana Gusmão, President of East Timor. The North-South Prize is awarded each year to two persons, one from the North, one from the South, who have actively contributed to the development and defense of the rights of the individual, pluralist democracy, and the partnership between North and South.
In November 2003, Albina du Boisrouvray received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 4th International Conference on AIDS in India, in recognition for the projects that she initiated in the 35 states and territories of India.
In July 2004, Albina du Boisrouvray, received the prestigious Thai Komol Keemthong Foundation Award of Outstanding Personality for the Year 2004. The award was given for her major contributions in Thailand and Myanmar in the field of protection of children’s and women’s rights, education, vocational training, support of HIV and AIDS-affected children in the families.
In 2007, the French Fédération nationale des Clubs Convergences gave her an award for her activities on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS in the world.
In 2008, the French TV Channel 5 devoted a full documentary within its “Empreintes” Collection to Albina du Boisrouvray. “On behalf of the son” directed by Olivier Horn, produced by Gedeon Programs and France 5, was filmed in Thailand, Burma and from Uganda to the Swiss Alps, following Albina and meeting beneficiaries of her programs. Flowing from the source of her exceptional initiative, it gives us her conception of humanitarian development and sheds a clear light on the intrinsic meanings of her commitments. This film bears witness to a unique destiny marked by dedication, courage, the conviction of a woman engaged and above all the love of a mother.
On April 8, 2009, French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy presented Albina du Boisrouvray with the insignia of Officer in l’Ordre National du Mérite. Sarkozy honored Albina and her work, saying, “Your NGO is a model throughout the world. You are a woman involved. Your solidarity is exemplary and that is why the Republic will distinguish you. ”
On June 11, 2009, Albina du Boisrouvray received the BNP Paribas Jury’s Special Prize. The prize was awarded in recognition of Albina’s 20 years of action on behalf of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. The prize honors remarkable women and men for their ethics, their personal involvement and their exemplary actions, and awards 50,000 Euros. The award was presented to Albina by Michel Pébereau, Chairman of BNP Paribas, and Amina Laraki-Slaoui.