Countess Albina du Boisrouvray

Countess du Boisrouvray was a panelist for the Forum’s discussion on The Cost of Inaction.

In a special April 2003 edition on “European Heroes”, Time Magazine described Albina du Boisrouvray as an “alchemist” who turned private pain and personal wealth into loving care for the estimated 100 million AIDS orphans and vulnerable children expected in this decade.

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 University of 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, notably “Les Zozos” (1972) Pascal Thomas’ first movie, “Police Python” (1975) by Alain Corneau, “L’important c’est d’aimer” (1975) by Andrzei Zulawski, and “Fort Saganne” (1984) by Alain Corneau.

Since 1980, she has chaired and managed SEGH, a family real estate and hotel properties group.

In 1985, the French Government appointed Albina du Boisrouvray “Chevalier des Arts et Lettres” and she became the first film producer to be awarded “L’Ordre National du Mérite”.

A personal tragedy – the death of her only child, François-Xavier, at the age of 24 during a helicopter mission in Mali – precipitated a dramatic change in her life and led her 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. In addition to her film-producing company, she sold 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.

François-Xavier Bagnoud was a helicopter pilot who specialized in rescue operations and dedicated his life to providing assistance to others. 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 is to fight poverty and AIDS, and support orphans and vulnerable children left in the wake of the AIDS pandemic. FXB 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 program. Today, FXB leads over 100 programs in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and has a staff of close to 400 and many volunteers.

In 1992, Albina du Boisrouvray established the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A year later, the University of Michigan conferred upon her a “Doctor of Humane Letters Degree”. She was made 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 in Sion, Switzerland). Because of the innovative cost-effective projects that she formulated and directed within FXB, she was selected 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 2003, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey conferred upon her a “Doctor of Human Letters Degree”. The same year, Albina du Boisrouvray received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 4thInternational Conference on AIDS in India, in recognition for the projects that she initiated in the 35 States and Territories of India.

On July 12, 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 8th 2009, the French President, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, presented Albina du Boisrouvray with the insignia of Officer in l’Ordre National du Mérite. The President 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 11th 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, last year’s winner.

On July 2011, Frederic Mitterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, made her “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”.