HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — At Riverside Health’s Mercury West Center in Hampton, Dr. Claude Louis’ name is pronounced “LU-iss.” But in his home country of Haiti, where French is one of the official languages, he is known as Dr. Claude “Lu-EE.”
What’s important, Louis says, is that you call him “determined.”
Louis routinely visits those in need in his home country where disasters — both natural and man-made — have left many living in poor conditions.
In the mountainous region near his birthplace, not much has changed since his formative years in the 1980s. At the same market where he sold produce as a child, boys still meet to sell produce to locals.
“We had to carry the water from a distance on our heads –it’s all in the book — we had to gather wood so mom could cook,” said Louis.
A trip to school was a one-hour walk each way. After completing chores, Louis would settle down for homework via candlelight around 8 p.m.
“As a child, we never really saw those things as to be unfortunate because that’s all we knew… Now, I look back and I say, ‘That was terrible.’ There were certain things that we had to do but for us, that was the norm,” he said.
Missionaries ushered Louis out of difficult impoverished conditions and ultimately into medical school.
At the age of 43, Louis recently penned a children’s book that tells the story of his life in the town of Kenscoff. In a recent Zoom interview, he read his favorite portion of “I’m All Grown Now, Papa,“ which chronicles the endless stream of questions of a little boy whose father died when little Claude was one month old.
“History is my favorite subject. Every day, the teacher picks me to read the next chapter in our textbooks. Today, I learned that we Haitians are the sons and daughters of the first freedom fighters.” read Louis.
Haiti, with its long history of setbacks, in recent years has been hit with viral, political, criminal, and disaster pandemics.
“My work in Haiti has not stopped because of COVID. It has not stopped with all the riots with all the instability there is at this time,” said Louis.
Through his nonprofit Words into Action, Louis will use 100% of the proceeds from his book to help fund the construction of two schools. He understands reticence to donate to a cause in Haiti considering the country’s long history of misappropriation of funds following the earthquake in 2015.
“The goal of this book is to sell enough copies and to raise enough funds to rebuild that primary school and build a high school with it because the closest high school is a three-mile walk from this place [near his birthhome],” he explained.
Louis says if you want to help the people of Haiti, donate directly to grassroots organizations and donors should require regular updates from those organizations.
Click here for more information on “I’m All Grown Now, Papa.”