In January of 2010, Loune Viaud attended a meeting of public health experts in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to discuss the nation’s recovery from four devastating hurricanes that had erased most of the country’s infrastructure.
Loune had already made a tremendous difference in Haiti. With her colleagues at Zanmi Lasante and Partners in Health, she launched one of the most effective AIDS treatment programs in the world, earning her the 2002 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The prime minister had begun his opening remarks when the unthinkable happened: the earth began to shake furiously, collapsing the wall behind the minister. A powerful earthquake had struck Haiti, claiming more than 10,000 lives and shattering the fragile progress the nation had made since the hurricanes of the previous year.
Loune hurried to Haiti’s General Hospital, where, among the rubble, she found 38 abandoned and orphaned children. "The hospital's director asked me to take the children and I said 'Yes,'" she recalled. Loune didn't ask how she could do it or where they would live or who would pay for it all.
In addition to her responsibilities with Zanmi Lasante and Partners for Health, Loune today runs a home for disadvantaged children just outside of Port-au-Prince called Zanmi Beni, which means “Blessed Friends.”
Haiti’s path to recovery is still a daunting one. But with advocates like Loune refusing to give up on the country, its future is filled with hope.