Dr. Yvens Laborde, regional medical director of Ochsner Medical Center West Bank, has joined forces with Ochsner Health System and the Haitian-based nonprofit FONDYLSAHH to promote Haitian art as an avenue for economic development.

Laborde is founder and president of FONDYLSAHH, which promotes health, education, agriculture and economic development in Haiti.

The Ochsner Haitian Relief Fund was established in response to the ongoing humanitarian medical crisis that unfolded in Haiti in the aftermath of the massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. The quake was followed by Hurricane Tomas and a subsequent cholera epidemic.

The fund provides medical aid and rebuilding assistance. Among its accomplishments are:

  • Constructing a small temporary medical clinic and pharmacy.
  • Completing on-site medical student and faculty housing.
  • Providing financial support for year-round physician presence.
  • Installing a water well for the school and clinic.
  • Providing teacher salaries and books, uniforms, school supplies and lunch for 210 students.
  • Establishing a seed and livestock program for student families and surrounding community.
  • Supporting adult community health, education and farming programs.
  • Providing financial support for an orphanage in Port-au-Prince.
  • Setting up videoconferencing capabilities with a Haitian medical school.

Ochsner has been extremely involved with relief efforts in Haiti. Laborde, a native Haitian born in Port-au-Prince, has been making humanitarian missions to Haiti since 2008.

“The first involvement with Ochsner supporting interventions in Haiti was during the hurricane season of 2008 when cyclones Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike all hit Haiti in succession during the months of August to September of 2008. These caused devastating flooding and food shortages in Gonaïves at that time,” Laborde said.

Gonaïves is capital of the Artibonite Department in northern Haiti, with a population of about 300,000.

Laborde says rebuilding in Haiti continues to be painfully slow; four years later, there are still an estimated 200,000 people living in temporary plywood and plastic structures in a multitude of tent camps throughout the city.

Permanent housing continues to be a major problem for Haiti. More than 2.3 million people were displaced and more than 180,000 buildings were destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, which killed more than 250,000 people and injured more than 300,000, and a deadly cholera epidemic killed more than 10,000 people.

“Today, there continues to be an estimated 200,000 people who remain in 306 displacement camps,” Laborde said.

According to Laborde, what is most needed now is the rebuilding of Haiti’s infrastructure, housing and access to clean water.

“Seventy percent of homes lack electricity and as many as 30 percent of school-aged children do not attend primary school,” he said.

The children are the saddest of all situations in Haiti, he said. Many children were left as orphans after the earthquake. It is estimated that there were 380,000 orphans before the earthquake, and that number has doubled since the earthquake with estimates of up to 800,000 orphans in a country with no social welfare program to care for them.

Through Laborde’s project, Ochsner is marketing statues made from river and mountain stones in the Léogâne and Gressier regions of Haiti, areas heavily affected by the earthquake. Many other pieces are made by artists in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien.

Laborde says the basic idea of the project is to provide a market to promote and share this artwork to serve as a revenue source to help the Haitians rebuild and generate a sustainable livelihood with dignity and pride.

The artwork is available for purchase at the Ochsner Jefferson Highway, Ochsner Baptist and Ochsner West Bank gift shops.

To donate by check, mail to: Ochsner Haitian Relief Fund, Ochsner Health System–Department of Philanthropy, 1514 Jefferson Highway, BH 240, New Orleans, LA 70121.

Yetoria Lumpkin DeShazier writes about the people and events in Algiers and the West Bank. Contact her at ydeshazier@gmail.com or call (504) 367-0905.