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Honoring Local Heroes

BY DAVID EINHORN, GUEST CORRESPONDENT

Fond des Blancs residents Jeanine Buissereth and Robert Gachelin well-remember what happened if you got sick before the St. Boniface hospital was built.

The nearest health care facility was in Petit Goave, some 30 kilometers away—several hours by car. There were few motor vehicles, and the sick were often carried out in people’s arms.

“It happened all the time,” Buissereth says. “People lost their lives because there was no hospital and they couldn’t get help in time.”

By the mid-1980s, the paths of these two lifelong residents crossed when each decided something had to be done. Gachelin started a local committee to find ways to build some kind of health facility, but the group struggled at first to find the land. Buissereth began thinking of ways to organize a system of rescue teams, but she had no money to put the plan in place.

But what Buissereth did have was land in the center of town, and it had water. The town’s Catholic priest, Father Gouello, was spearheading efforts by Gachelin’s committee and contacted Beeissereth about purchasing the 1.5-acre lot.

“I told him I didn’t want to sell, but that I’d donate it for the good of the community,” Buissereth says. “I just wanted to see lives saved. That’s what motivated me. We had seen enough tragedy here.”

Gachelin says the committee was stunned but thrilled over Buissereth’s generosity. A clinic and school were built first and the hospital itself was inaugurated in 1992.

Both Gachelin, 63 and Buissereth, 67, have been treated at the hospital themselves over the years and take great pride in having helped make it the centerpiece of their community. Fond des Blancs is still largely inaccessible by paved roads, but, remarkably, it has a modern hospital that provides everything from prenatal care to treatment for spinal cord injuries.

“Money will perish; a hospital will endure,” Buissereth says.