A weekend at Labiche

Labiche is a small town, 120 miles south of Port-au-Prince, and close to L’Asile. Usually it is a quiet little town, with people traveling mostly on mules. But last weekend, it was quite festive, with visitors coming from L’Asile, Les Cayes, and as far as Port-au-Prince to celebrate Saint Joachim—their patron saint. Scores of young people flooded the town on motorcycles and a few pickups. However, I, along with my wife, a niece of hers, and one of my cousins, went to Labiche not for Saint Joachim, but for a need-assessment.

Since we’re thinking about extending the Repheka Clinic to Labiche, we wanted to know what’s available in terms of health centers and hospitals, where do people go for care, and how far from Labiche are the nearest health centers and hospitals.

We stumbled upon L’Asile new hospital, perched on a hill, and called L’Hopital Communautaire de Reference de L’Asile. Its name means it’s a community-based and reference hospital. Though it was Saturday, we’ve seen at least six Cubans--physicians, nurses, and other personnel--walking around. Besides basic ambulatory and inpatient care, the hospital has three operating rooms. It’s a great resource for the area, and is only at 11 miles from Labiche.

The other hospital nearest to Labiche is Hopital Lumiere, at Bonne Fin, 12 miles south of Labiche. In addition to basic services, it provides surgery and orthopedics care. It’s used to be the major hospital in the south, but in the past few years has lost some of its luster. With the support of a Baptist mission from the States, It’s trying to make a comeback.

Even in August, Labiche is leafy and green. Its red clay soil hangs on your shoes and pants. Coffee plants pregnant with seeds stand everywhere, as a reminder of time past, when Haiti was among the big coffee producers of the world. Avocado, coconut, and plantain trees are everywhere. Small hills mixed with valleys and plateaus give the area a nice panoramic feel.

We started by looking for a place to host the clinics. After a few negotiations, we got ourselves the state elementary school. Its five classes fit our needs more than enough. We’ll use the front room for patient registration and vital signs, the next two ones for exam rooms, and the last two ones for lab and pharmacy.

Then we reached out to the gate keepers of the area, people whose support is necessary to make things happen. All of them are closed to the catholic priest, one of the most prominent authority figures at Labiche. We also visited a couple of makeshift dancing floors, tent structure circled with walls of plantain branches. Their sound system made of laptop computers, huge speakers, and other accessories, seemed out of place. People vowed to not sleep, dancing all night long.

At the end of our long day, we went back to my cousin’s family home. A cool shower set us ready for a quiet night, far from the heat and noise of Port-au-Prince. We sat outside, on a square concrete floor used to dry up seeds, barely able to keep our eyes open, but enjoying the fresh air of the night. It was then around eight o’clock. From time to time thunders erupt in the cloudy sky. It’s not going to rain, said one of our friends. However, right after, it started raining, which forced us to take refuge inside. Soon, we all went to bed, tired but content.