On October 5, during the inauguration of new Regis College President Antoinette M. Hays, Loune Viaud, co-Executive Director for Zanmi Lasante, PIH’s sister organization in Haiti, added a doctorate of law to her resume.
The honorary degree, conferred on her by Regis College in Massachusetts, was the latest example of the close partnership that has blossomed between Partners In Health, Zanmi Lasante and Regis College. This past summer, Regis began a Master’s of Nursing Program for Haitian nurses at its Boston campus.
Viaud’s accomplishments are long. She pioneered Central Haiti’s first women’s health center, and has implemented several women’s literacy projects, a scholarship program for girls and a gender-awareness curriculum for training health care personnel. She received a Peace and Justice Award from the Cambridge Peace Commission in 2000, RFK Center’s Human Rights and Advocacy Award in 2002 and has been honored by many communities in Haiti over the years.
“Regis’s nursing community is invested in Haiti, and in developing long-term partnerships with other health care organizations that view health care as a basic human right,” Viaud said.
Watching the day’s events was Maude Duvilier, former director of nursing at the Haitian Ministry of Health and the National Nursing School in Haiti, Ėcole Nationale des Infirmières. The National Nursing School collapsed during the January 2010 earthquake, killing nearly all of the second-year class of nursing students. Duvilier’s presence highlights the important role Regis plays in Haiti’s reconstruction efforts.
Also in attendance was Natacha Jean, the first MDR-TB patient treated in Cange who is now attending ESL classes at Regis College, with the hope of continuing her nursing studies there as well.
Joey Adler, founder of the nonprofit organization ONEXONE, a long-time partner of PIH, commemorated Viaud’s honorary degree by making a donation to start a preschool at Zanmi Beni, a home for abandoned and physically and developmentally disabled children on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. One of PIH’s proudest accomplishments after the earthquake, Zanmi Beni – “blessed friends” in Haitian Creole – provides refuge and support for 50 children.
Viaud was instrumental to Zanmi Beni’s founding, and spends a significant amount of time working with the children living there.
Viaud and PIH cofounder Paul Farmer plan to name the preschool “Kay Olivier Alexandre” in remembrance of little Olivier, son of Zanmi Lasante nurse-midwife Claudine. Olivier died in April 2011 in Belladères.
The collaboration between Partners In Health, Zanmi Lasante and Regis College will continue to flourish in the coming years. Over the next two years, the twelve nursing professors from various Haitian institutions – Université Notre Dame, Ecole Nationale des Infirmières de Pap, Jerémie, Cap Haitien and Cayes – who began their studies this summer will continue their training at Regis College and Haiti’s Universite Notre Dame over the next two years.
Once the Mirebalais Teaching Hospital that PIH is constructing in central Haiti opens in 2012, Regis College will help in training Haiti’s next generation of nurses.