Madame Yolande Lafontant, Mr. Bossuet Sainvillus, Ms. Gillen Warn and Pere Fritz Lafontant meeting with Sewanee students for breakfast this morning
8:42 AM CST
Sewanee students and community watching a live-cast of President Barack Obama being sworn in, 11:04 AM CST.
Today, within a space of two hours, I went from having breakfast with Pere Fritz Lafontant, director of Zanmi Lasante, Haiti…. to watching Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S.A. Two people who inspire hope. The former has already made that hope manifest by transforming thousands of lives. The latter carries the best wishes of millions towards fulfilling his (and our) aspirations. My wish for the day – that Pere Lafontant gets to spend a day with Barack Obama.
“There is no such thing as a miserable situation – only a situation that is miserably accepted” – Pere Fritz Lafontant
This is the citation I wrote for (Dr.) Pere Fritz Lafontant’s honorary doctorate, which was bestowed upon him by Sewanee:
For over forty-five years, Father Fritz Lafontant and his wife, Yolande, have worked in Haiti, bringing attention to the plight of those displaced by an ill-considered hydro-electric project, Father Lafontant has created long-term solutions to environmental degradation, malnutrition, infectious disease and mortality.
Despite being faced with infant and child mortality rates of over 25% in 1962, he and Yolande established a school in Cange. From there, Father Lafontant’s vision for a healthier, better educated and environmentally harmonious community began to become a reality. Working with local and US partners, he guided Dr. Paul Farmer in 1982 to form an organization that is now famously known as Partners in Health, or Zanmi Lasante. Today, under the directorship of Father Lafontant, Zanmi Lasante provides care for up to a million people, and has a maternal health and pediatric program, a state-of-the-art STD clinic, and a tuberculosis and infectious disease center. This institution teaches local residents to become midwives, nurses, health workers and counselors. The work of Zanmi Lasante includes building schools, homes and communal water systems and providing employment for area residents.
Father Lafontant’s influence has extended across the world, and we are fortunate to have been touched by it on this mountain of ours. For his ability to preserve and sustain life and the environment, for his generosity of spirit, his selflessness and his vision, and for helping the University’s mission, as students travel from this mountain to the mountains of Cange, the University is honored to bestow upon Father Fritz Lafontant the degree of Doctor of Religion, honoris causa.