When Haitian-American nurse Patricia “Nurse Patti” Lafontant is not in DC, she’s bound to be found somewhere in Miami. The ER nurse divides her time between those two areas, but best believe that her mind is always on Haiti, the birth land of her parents. Her desire to give back to Haiti led to the launch of the Lafontant Foundation, a nonprofit that helps under-served communities in Haiti as well as in DC through healthcare, education and technology.
Kreyolicious: You’re a Miami girl who was brought up as the daughter of Haitian immigrants. Since a Haitian-American upbringing can vary and there’s no cookie cutter and paper doll experience, I don’t want to make any assumptions about yours. This said, how was yours?
Nurse Patti: My experience growing up was typical and atypical at the same time. I had a very young mother who was more understanding of American culture and my father was your typical Haitian from Jacmel with witty comebacks, ridiculous assumptions about American culture, strict when it came to boys only, but very funny and extremely loving at the same time. I had way more freedom then most Haitian-American kids growing up in Miami at the time. Both of my parents stressed the importance of education, self-love, morals and values despite growing up very poor and not in the best environments. My mother was the disciplinarian because my father did not believe in beating girls so that his daughters wouldn’t grow up thinking it was okay. It was five of us, so disciplining us was not easy. I got away with a lot when I was growing up because school came easy to me. Making good grades was effortless.
Kreyolicious: I watched snippets of your keynote speech at the Nurses Brunch. You are apparently a capable leader and very motivating and commanding as a speaker. Were you always like this?
Nurse Patti: I’ve never viewed myself as a public speaker, but as I child I was always able to defend myself verbally or physically, and I knew how to stand up for myself or argue my point. I often found myself defending other kids who were afraid or being bullied because at an early age I recognized the power of my voice. The very things that got me in trouble as a child, prepared me to be an influential speaker as an adult. No matter if I was right or wrong, my parents always liked that I was passionate and bold in what my rationale was. Both of my parents thought I was going to be a lawyer, but my sister Jo became a lawyer, and I became a nurse.
Kreyolicious: Are there books that you’ve read that have contributed to your growth?
Nurse Patti: At this point of my life I’ve lost count of how many books I have read. I love to read. I am an avid reader. Some of my favorite books were written by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, Zora Hurston Neale, Ta’nehisi Coates, Isabel Wilkerson, Imani Perry, Manning Marable. The list goes on…and then I read things like the The Lean Start-Up, or anything by Ted talks to help me develop as a capitalist/ social entrepreneur living in America.
Kreyolicious: Many know from following your journey on social media that giving back is a huge part of who you are. You were already giving informally. What made you launch your foundation?
Nurse Patti: My story of how I came into giving back is hilarious…I got into a little trouble with the law and it was mandated that I do community service as punishment. I was sent to an organization in Overtown in Miami that helped former addicts and returning citizens get back into the work force. I absolutely loved working with these people, more than anything. I talked to them and learned their stories, and they gave me the best advice about life and how to cope. I liked the program so much that even after fulfilling my hours I would come by from time to time just to hang out. I was giving back before social media made it cool. It kind of became part of who I was before becoming a nurse. What made me launch my foundation was obvious. I had so much experience in giving back, managing and organizing events it was only right that I started my own and incorporated some of the things I saw lacking in other organizations. After moving to D.C and learning more about the non-profit sector, I decided to take that leap.
Kreyolicious: What are the foundation’s needs and how can others help?
Nurse Patti: Like any other non-profit especially newly founded ones our greatest need is capital… money. The best way to support our programs and initiatives is to donate. Donations are all tax deductible.
This concludes PART I of the interview with Patricia “Nurse Patti” Lafontant. Stay tuned for PART II.
to find out more about the Haitian-American nurse and her foundation! | to get an overview of the latest developments at Nurse Patti’s foundation.