Fran Rajotte asked God to help her find a job where she could make an impact on humanity. He sent her to the Visitation Hospital Foundation and Catholic Charities of Tennessee.
“When you pray for something you have to be careful to accept what God gives you,” Rajotte said. “I prayed to have an impact on humanity. Both of my jobs have allowed me to do that.”
More than 13 years later, she is retiring from her positions as associate director of the Visitation Hospital Clinic and as director of advocacy and social concerns for Catholic Charities.
In both jobs, she has been able to serve the poor. “It’s been my passion,” Rajotte said.
Her responsibilities at Visitation Hospital Foundation, which is affiliated with the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas, have primarily been raising funds for the construction of the Visitation Clinic in Petite Riviere de Nippes, Haiti, which opened in 2008.
“We had nothing,” when she started, Rajotte said. “We just had a piece of land. From the time I started until now we have a thriving medical clinic that offers a variety of health care services and a laboratory and a pharmacy.”
Over the years, the clinic has added numerous programs. Recently added has been a dental program, a nurse midwife program, and a program that sends community health workers out into the more remote areas around the clinic, Rajotte said.
The community health workers program, funded with a grant from the Raskob Foundation, has two workers trained by the Haitian Ministry of Health who deliver basic care and health education to people.
The dental program is sponsored by a dentist in Memphis “who has worked as my right arm” developing the program, Rajotte said. “The equipment there now is equal to anything you find in the United States.”
Clarksville Pediatric Dentistry has helped sponsor some of the equipment, Rajotte added.
With funding from Saint Thomas Health and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, the clinic was able to hire three masters-level nurse midwives to train 40 midwives, Rajotte said. Most women in Haiti have their babies at home with the help of a midwife, most of whom have not had any formal training.
Through the program, the midwives completed a six-week course and were certified. When they graduated in June, Rajotte said, “I was able to present them with their certificates. The community was so excited.”
The program has spread the word among mothers and the midwives to be mindful of pre- and post-natal care and to let them know they can come to the clinic if there are complications, Rajotte said.
Since the clinic opened, child malnutrition in the area has been reduced by 85 percent, Rajotte said. “We’ve almost eliminated worms in adults and children.”
The foundation has developed relationships with the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health, Belmont University School of Nursing, Aquinas College School of Nursing and Saint Thomas Health. Direct Relief Services provides the clinic with medicines every other month and will soon start sending free birthing kits for the midwife program.
The biggest need now is more space at the clinic, Rajotte said. The foundation’s next goal is to raise $650,000 to build a labor/delivery room and a surgical suite. The job of raising those funds will fall to Rajotte’s replacement, Lee Anne Wills, who started in the job on Jan. 4.
Rajotte will remain on the board of directors for the Visitation Hospital Foundation.
Six years ago, Rajotte added a second job working for Catholic Charities. Among her responsibilities has been working with the poverty reduction program through Catholic Charities USA. “We do a lot of education on poverty, such as poverty simulations, hunger banquets, and food stamp challenges,” Rajotte said.
She also works with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, overseeing its grant program locally. The grants are awarded to agencies that empower the poor to help themselves. Rajotte’s role has been reviewing the grant applications before sending them on to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development national staff.
Several organizations in Nashville have received CCHD grants, including the Tennessee Disability Coalition, the Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition, the Worker Dignity Project, NOAH, and the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
Rajotte also has worked with the Campaign’s annual youth art contest. Numerous winners at the local level have gone on to win honors at the national level, Rajotte said.
She also has worked with state legislators, educating them about Catholic Charities and its programs, Rajotte said.
Her replacement at Catholic Charities is Aimee Mayer.
Rajotte has enjoyed her work with Visitation Hospital Foundation and Catholic Charities, she said. “It’s just been a labor of love.”