For more about key actors in the City of Joy Aid organization, see:Is Paris Burning?, ...Or I'll Dress You in Mourning, O Jerusalem, Freedom at Midnight, and The Fifth Horseman which he wrote with Larry Collins. Indeed, stories of courage, resilience, and the power of compassion are Lapierre's stock in trade. But it was not until a fateful day in 1981 that Lapierre exchanged his role of detached journalist for concerned participant, creating the social changes he had, until then, merely documented.
In the wake of the success of Freedom at Midnight, the book that recounts the Indian struggle for Independence, Lapierre knew he had to give something back to the nation with which he had fallen in love. Equipped with a check for $50,000 of royalty earnings, Lapierre and his wife, also named Dominique, paid a visit to Mother Teresa, certain she would know how best to put their donation to use.
It was a meeting that would forever change their lives. Watching the Saint of Calcutta pursue her mission of mercy, Lapierre realized that "conditions could be changed, that poverty was not a fatality, that compassion could restore hope, that a little bit of love could do marvels."
Mother Teresa introduced him to Englishman James Stevens who had opened a home for children suffering from leprosy from the slums of Calcutta. In the course of fifteen years, he had rescued, cured and educated several thousand children. When Stevens met Lapierre in 1981, he was in deep financial crisis: the home had exhausted his own personal funds, and had no other source of support. It seemed as if he would be forced to return 150 children to their hovels in the slums. Lapierre pledged that such a tragedy would not come to pass, that the refuge that Stevens had named "Udayan"--"Resurrection"--would never close its doors.
Since that day, Lapierre's promise has only increased in scope. In 1984, in tribute to the inhabitants of the slum that was fast becoming his second home, Lapierre wrote The City of Joy, which became an international bestseller. His commitment has deepened, his projects expanded.
Since 1981, the Lapierres have supported the work of 1000 social workers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and educators. They have contributed to the rescue, shelter, treatment, cure, education, and rehabilitation of over 4 million patients suffering from tuberculosis, cholera, leprosy, and the other diseases that exist in the shadow of poverty. The Resurrection Home for children suffering from leprosy has cured nine thousand children infected by this devastating but treatable disease.
In 1997, 1998, and 1999, the Lapierres launched three hospital boats to bring medical aid to the tiny islands that dot the Ganges Delta. Although they are home to over one million people, these 54 islands have no other source of medical care: they have been so forgotten that world maps do not record their existence.
In three years, the medical teams working on these boats have treated 100,000 people for tuberculosis, and performed 3,000 operations in the confines of a floating operating room.
The list of their good works goes on an on. For a detailed list see A Lasting Impact. Unlike many humanitarian aid organizations, City of Joy Aid has no offices or paid staff. The Lapierres absorb all overhead expenses from their own pocket, and personally ascertain that every dollar given from the author's royalties or received from donors goes directly to Calcutta to serve a priority.