Before Haiti was hit by an earthquake so devastating that the whole world paid notice to that impoverished and frequently neglected land, the singer Wyclef Jean organized the Yele Haiti movement to promote education, health care, environmental protection and community development on the island.
Operating on a model that Jean says delivers 100 percent of donations to assigned projects, Yele Haiti has always made it easy to get money quickly to the people who need it most.
After this week’s earthquake hit Haiti, the singer appeared on CNN to describe his communications with people on the ground. Here’s the interview with Jean.
Shortly after completing the interview, the former leader of the Fugees made his way to his native land, from which he posted a message that:
Haiti today faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country has ever experienced.
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake – and several very strong aftershocks – struck only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince.
I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight face catastrophe alone. We must act now.
President Obama has already said that the U.S. stands ‘ready to assist’ the Haitian people. The U.S. Military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately. They must do so as soon as possible. The international community must also rise to the occasion and help the Haitian people in every way possible.”
Many people have already reached out to see what they can do right now. We are asking those interested to please do one of two things: Either you can use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill), or you can visit Yele.org and click on DONATE.
There are many worthy ways to help Haiti, which my colleague Peter Rothberg has well outlined. But Jean is in something of a unique position, as he points out that he’s already working with programs that are in place in the country and that he is on the ground raising the call for emergency aid.
UPDATE: Wyclef Jean has been asked to co-host an a two-hour telethon next Friday night to benefit the victims of the Haitian earthquake, called “Hope for Haiti,” which will be shown from 8 p.m., Eastern time, on ABC, BET, CBS, CMT, CNN, CW, FOX, HBO, MTV, NBC and VH1, in addition to the MTV Networks International, CNN International and the National Geographic channels.
At the same time, there has been a flurry of discussion about whether Jean’s charity, Yele Haiti, maintains appropriate accounting standards and, in the words of the Associated Press: “Even as hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc. via text message, experts questioned how much of the money would help those in need.”
The New York Times Haiti blog has a detailed report on the concerns.
I have spent tireless hours working on behalf of my homeland on development issues as well as human and immigrant rights. I have been committed to helping the people of Haiti throughout my life, and that commitment will continue until the day I die.
It is impossible for me to even comprehend the recent attacks on my character and the integrity of my foundation, Yele Haiti. The fact that these attacks come as we are mobilized to meet the greatest human tragedy in the history of Haiti only serves to perplex me even further. I first learned of these baseless attacks when I left Haiti late Friday, where I had been since 12 hours after the earthquake.
Let me be clear: I denounce any allegation that I have ever profited personally through my work with Yele Haiti. These baseless attacks are simply not true. In fact, I have, time and again, committed significant amounts of my own money to support the work of Yele Haiti and other organizations in support of our efforts over the years. More than that, I have spent countless hours, days, months and years of my life committed to the country of Haiti, the people of Haiti and the success of Haiti.
These baseless allegations were first put forward by a fringe website with a history of pursuing sensationalist story lines. The mainstream media’s pursuit of them has required Yele to divert precious resources during this critical time in order to answer various inquiries. That must end.
I will continue to commit my focus to what is most important right now: Haiti. Right now, Yele is working with its valuable NGO partners, the U.S. Government, the United Nations and so many others to save lives, honor those who have perished and get aid to the millions of Haitians suffering through the worst human catastrophe of our times.