Lude Labieville is just like most Averett University students.
She goes to class every day and visits friends and church. Eventually she hopes to return to dental school.
But Labieville is from Haiti and came to Averett under special circumstances. She is a survivor of the deadly earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in 2010. Going to dental school at the time, Labieville was on the way to school when the quake struck.
Her school was completely leveled in the tragedy and many of her fellow students and professors were killed.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Labieville.
Her plans to finish dental school were put on hold until Ken Henshaw, the president of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation in Richmond, fought to get some displaced Haitian students to attend school in the U.S. to help out the developing county.
Four students ended up in Richmond, including Labieville, and attended community college until they could get into other universities. She came to Averett three months ago and she has fallen in love with the small college.
“Everybody here is like a family,” said Labieville. “It’s different here. Everyone tries to make you feel at home.”
Labieville said she was impressed when on her day of arrival, she got to meet Averett President Tiffany Franks. She said Franks encouraged her to ask as many questions as she wanted and to talk about what she liked and even what she didn’t like for feedback.
The bulk of her tuition comes from Averett in scholarships and grants and she has free room and board after a local family, Gary and Lin Benefield, took Labieville into their home. However, $6,500 for each semester is still needed. So the Haitian Student Fund Steering Committee was created to help raise the money.
Beth Bauman, the chair of the committee, is the director of youth and children’s ministries at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church. She has been involved in bringing Labieville to Averett ever since she heard about the project from the “I Have a Dream” Foundation.
“One of the best ways to help a developing country is to help educate its best students,” said Bauman. “This is a really good way to make a difference.”
Bauman said she wanted to do something really advantageous to help Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. And this was a way to really invest in the country’s future. She formed a committee with Averett officials, church members and community leaders to help raise the money for Labieville to finish at Averett and eventually go to dental school and return to Haiti with a much-needed skill set.
Labieville is open to speaking about her story of surviving the earthquake and her transition to the U.S. to any churches and civic groups — and she has done so many times already. Several churches have already donated to the Haitian Student Fund to help keep her at Averett.
Bauman is confident they will raise the money — if Labieville cannot go to school one semester she must return to Haiti — and said many people in the community and at Averett are behind the cause.
To donate to the Haitian Student Fund or have Labievill speak to an organization, contact Bauman at (434) 489-6514 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holland reports for the Danville Register & Bee.