Elfenbeinküste: Lotti Latrous

I receive more than I give. In the hospice I feel God’s presence. I see him in Emmanuel’s smile, feel him at Aimé’s bedside, and recognize him in the gestures of blind Felix. This is my place.

— Lotti Latrous

Lotti Latrous was born in 1953. She has lived in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire, where she did volunteer work at the local Mother Theresa Hospital. The contrast between the miseries she witnessed in Abidjan and her privileged life inspired her to found an outpatient clinic in Adjouffou, a slum in Abidjan. In 2002 she opened a hospice for Aids patients. Her next project is to open an orphanage for children whose parents have died of Aids. Her family lives in Cairo and Switzerland.

Lotti recalls, “It was in Abidjan in 2002. I was sitting in my car, when I felt irritated by a sickly smell, like that of a rotting animal. I got out of the car to find out where the irritating smell was emanating from and found a man lying in a hole near the street, wrapped in a garbage bag. He was totally dehydrated. Although ants were crawling out of his ears and mouth, he was still breathing. When he finally looked at me I asked him how long he had been lying there, and he answered that he did not know. As I left to get help, he whispered, 'I am Monsieur René.' People in the slum knew that René had been lying there for at least ten days and they had occasionally brought him food and water. With the slum dwellers' help, we took René to an outpatient clinic, where he stayed for a week. All this inspired me to set up a hospital for dying Aids victims.” Lotti grew up in Zurich, where she met and married Aziz Latrous from Tunisia. They have three children, aged 25, 24 and 16. She moved to Abidjan where her husband worked as a director at Nestlé and lived a privileged life. The misery she witnessed in Abidjan motivated her to build an outpatient clinic in the slums with the full support of her husband. It had just been opened in 1999, when her husband was transferred to Cairo. Lotti would not abandon her work and made a deal with her family - she would alternate between spending two months in Cairo and one in Abidjan. As this did not prove feasible in the long run, her husband asked her to stay with her family, but only if she wanted to, because he feared that her love would turn into hatred. Thereafter, Lotti settled down in Adjouffou - a decision, which despite greatly affecting her marriage and family did not break either. The Latrouses visit each other regularly. Meanwhile Lotti is working on a new project, building a home for mothers and children.

Fondation Lotti Latrous