Welcome to 2021, Earthlings! I’m Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m excited to continue our journey of interviewing entrepreneurs that are working to eradicate inequalities. Today we are zipping off to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to speak with Dr. Benjamin Bocio Richardson, co-founder and executive director of FUMEBO.
Spiffy: Welcome Benjamin, can you tell me about your work and what challenges you are addressing?
Benjamin: Thanks so much for having me, Spiffy! As a healthcare provider and entrepreneur, I strongly advocate the betterment of quality access to healthcare, nutrition, and education to reduce inequalities and poverty. I believe that once we achieve a world where education is universally accessible, health is taken for granted and illness is the exception, children are spared of malnutrition, and opportunities are for all, we will ensure that no one will be left behind.
Spiffy: That’s a herculean task! What motivated you to tackle this?
Benjamin: After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which engendered a scarcity of sustainable resources in the island of La Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), my father and I co-founded FUMEBO (Fundación Médica Bocio), an NGO dedicated to providing sustainable resources to vulnerable populations. In the last 10 years, we have served over 75,000 people without quality access to education, healthcare, and food. Our mission in the world is to end all kinds of inequalities, not only on the island but in the world.
Spiffy: This is amazing! Can you tell me more about how you are working to create a more equitable world?
Benjamin: Our approach is an innovative “Robin Hood approach/effect”, based on the equitable redistribution of sustainable resources from an affluent region to an underprivileged region. FUMEBO aims to reduce inequalities by supporting children living in underserved communities. We strongly believe that by providing quality access to healthcare, nutritional food, and educational resources for our emerging generation, they will be able to thrive and overcome the obstacles imposed by society.
Spiffy: What kind of milestones have you achieved recently?
Benjamin: One Young World and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded me The Covid-19 Young Leaders Fund for my newest initiative, “Vital Boxes”, which combats inequalities that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the initiative, we have helped over 2,500 children with personal hygiene and disinfection products and essential food on the island of La Hispaniola. I have also had the opportunity to share the impact of our initiative with Latin American entrepreneurs so that it can be replicated in more countries.
Spiffy: Can you share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from failure?
Benjamin: Well, Spiffy, I founded FUMEBO when I was 14 years old. Due to my age, I believed that just like me, everybody would do everything they could to change the world in a positive manner. Plenty of people were skeptical about my capacity to run an NGO. I surmounted these obstacles with determination and persistence. When someone told me, “no”, I said, “I will solicit your help later”. I also learned that two forces are stronger than one. Partnerships are crucial to the rapid development of any project.
Changing the world is a herculean task, but every person everywhere can do something to improve it. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Bocio Richardson)
Spiffy: What about these children you work with, have you learned anything surprising from them?
Benjamin: Oh yes! I have learned that children have smiles of hope and that bright and healthy smiles can ameliorate the world. Recently, I was working in an underserved community when a little child told me, “I want to smile like you and be happy!” I said to him, “I want to smile like you because your smile is hope for humanity”. From that moment on, I confirmed what I want to do for the rest of my life, which is to work for those in need, speak up for those who cannot be heard, and make children smile.
Spiffy: It sounds like you’re well on your way to achieving that, Benjamin! Before we sign off, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Benjamin: Spiffy, it is crucial to recognize that we are in a new decade of action to achieve the SDGs of the 2030 agenda of the United Nations. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came to stay with humanity indefinitely, so extensive work and systematic efforts need to be done to alleviate the burden of the pandemic in underserved communities so that by 2030 we can live in an equitable and sustainable society for all.
Spiffy: Thank you for launching us into the new year by inspiring us with your work and vision! It has been an honor.
Dr. Benjamin Bocio Richardson is a doctor of dental surgery and a social entrepreneur. When he was 14 years old, he co-founded FUMEBO, an NGO dedicated to providing sustainable resources to underserved communities. He is an ambassador of the Nobel Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus, where he advocates for the UN SDGs. (Nominated by UNDP)