July 12, 2010

LKL Exclusive - Wyclef Jean on Haiti: It's the Little Things

Posted: 12:59 PM ET

Editor's note: Wyclef Jean will appear on Larry King Live tonight,
the six-month anniversary of the massive Haiti earthquake.

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In the six months since an earthquake devastated my homeland of Haiti, on Jan. 12, I have been working with my wife, Claudinette, and with Yéle Haiti, the organization I co-founded more than five years ago, to try to put right some of the terrible conditions that now exist there. Every time I go back, I hope things will be better—and they are, but just a little bit, never enough. We have to keep hoping, for Haiti’s sake, that the world won’t forget how much help is still needed.

We’ve found that for the people in Haiti, who have so little, the smallest things bring them joy. In the care packages we distribute, for instance, the refugee women in tent camps are so happy to have the windup flashlights. Such a minor thing to us, but I’m sure you’ve read stories about the assaults the women in Haiti are suffering, the rapes and kidnappings. Some of the women in the camps we’re working with have told us those flashlights make them feel safer; they don’t have to walk in the dark anymore. So the flashlights actually make their faces light up, too!

Of course, we know there’s a lot more to be done to ensure the safety of all the women and children there—provide houses with doors that lock, help shape better economic conditions so that desperate people don’t feel the need to resort to crime and violence—but for now, the simple windup flashlight that fits in one hand gives these women some hope.

Think of this: In the heat wave that’s hitting the U.S. East Coast this month, temperatures are reaching more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It regularly gets that hot in the summer in Haiti, where 1.2 million people are still displaced, still living in tent camps, without enough food or water, or barely any shelter from the sun—and certainly no air-conditioning. Considering the awful conditions in which they live, maybe it’s not so hard to understand why the people are so joyous to accept things that most of us take for granted: care packages with basic items such as clothing, first-aid materials, shoes, canned foods. And water.

Yéle delivers up to 36,000 gallons of filtered water a day to the people in tent camps, with a fleet of 14 tanker trucks. With each day of operation, we’ve been able to help about 7,200 families enjoy the “simple pleasures” of cooking some food, or washing up. And we’ve distributed drinking water, too, first in bottles, and soon in individual 10-ounce pouches—they’re smaller, more portable that way. So again, sometimes it’s the little things that can mean the most.

We want to give the Haitians more, though. We want them to not have to be happy with a small flashlight when really what they need is a house that keeps them safe. We want them to not have to be grateful that they have any water at all when what they really need is better living conditions with a safe water source conveniently located nearby. That’s why Yéle is building temporary housing for the tent camp residents and why we’re including a school, latrines, showers and a water source on each site.

We want the people of Haiti to be able to dream big, not to have to settle for the least they can get by on. Their joy and gratitude are the fuel that’s kept us going in our efforts to bring them some relief in the six months since the earthquake hit, and it makes us want to fight for them, to make sure the world knows they deserve better than to have to live in these dire conditions brought about by circumstances beyond their control. If we would all help, all our small efforts could add up to very great changes. So let’s appreciate the little things, like the Haitians do, but let’s aim for making bigger improvements for these great people.

Filed under: Haiti Earthquake • LKL Web Exclusive • Wyclef Jean

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Joe G. (Illinois)   July 12th, 2010 3:53 pm ET

God is merciful, extremely merciful, the most merciful.
God is loving, extremely loving, the most loving..

God could have ended it all with Adam and Eve after they chose sin (Death, pain and suffering.) One must overcome sin thought rebirth and the Holy Spirit to regain an eternal life free of sin (Death, pain and suffering.)

Haitian continue not to appreciate the opportunity given to them, yet continue to yearin a life back to normal (And we all know what that is) or a life more comfortable than normal.

Mary   July 12th, 2010 4:14 pm ET

According to European Businessmen, whom I met in Haiti, they have some of the most highly skilled craftsman in the world.

Why are there not day camps that educate: teach the basics, reading., etc and various skills in an effort to retrain adults which will pay off for everyone as they recover from this catastrophe. It could seriously cut the crime and restore the dignity that has been wrenched away by the past. People can learn-but they need the opportunity to do so.

Smith in Oregon   July 12th, 2010 5:43 pm ET

Without complete accountability on the Billions of aid dollars and Millions given to this organization, this is nothing but a blatant use of suffering people to exploit more money into their pockets.

News Media interviewing the many tent citys had people wondering where the food donations and food supplys went, they were being forced to pay for food, pay for water. Other than a cheap tent they hadn't recieved a damn thing.

Accountability, American's are sick and tired of organizations exploiting poor and suffering people to fill their personal bank accounts under the guise of 'relief'. Why in the hell would Bush-Cheney law's only stipulate at least a mere 3% collected be spent on whatever it was supposedly collected for? Yep, 97% in the pocket is entirely legal.

And of course those Billions of dollars collected are making Millions of additional dollars for these 'organizations' in interest alone. I imagine a great amount of these 'relief' funds has been entirely diverted over to Wall Street Investments in stocks that were greatly devalued and depressed from the 2008 Bush jr. fiasco so these agency's could make some quick money as those same stocks rose once again.

doubtingthomas2010   July 12th, 2010 7:09 pm ET

Joe G- you don't know what you are talking about in reference to Haitian people- if you are going by what you are reading and seeing you are misinformed. While Haiti is devastated, faith in God has never changed with Haitian people. Please know all the information that has been previously stated about Haitian people stems from racism.

Bottom line, the people who were raising the money are the ones still holding the money.

Sadhaitian national   July 12th, 2010 9:40 pm ET

The real tragedy is that the International community still does not recognized that they dealing with a corrupt and inept government in Haiti. Thus far the government has largely been silent about how we will rebuild ourcountry.For us out here, Mr Preval looks more concerned about who will replace him as president than having a plan to get our bothers and sisters out of the tent cities.
Unfortunately, CNN will be talking to the same people that have been talking to since the earthquake. After months of inaction, today, Yele Haiti, the trucks CNE were out in the streets creating huge traffic Jams I suspect to give the impression that they are actually doing something, it was a really sad spectacle.
As someone who has lost his mother in that disaster, I really feel ashame of my country's leaders and refuse to blame the International community for our current innaction. We definitely can do more on our own. The international community should stop its blind faith into Mr Preval and irts cronies, they are a huge part of the problem we are facing now!

Georgy Simeon   July 12th, 2010 9:46 pm ET

I was in Haiti post the quake with Bedford Styverson volunteer ambulance service and we are still trying to send more people to Haiti but my personal concerns are why so long to see any changes. With all the donations that were collected why so little help especially from the redcross.

Afriqah Imani   July 13th, 2010 12:44 am ET

I just want to thank you Wyclef, for the your efforts in trying to rebuild your country. May God bless you. I am wondering what I can do to help. I am a humanatarian have have been trying to get to Haiti for some time to help in any way I can. I have been able to gather some supplies to bring, but getting them there has been a challenge. Please contact me via email and adivise me as to what I can do to help.

Thanking you in advance,
Afriqah Iman

marjorie philord   August 5th, 2010 9:30 pm ET

I am so happy he finally decided to run for president in HAITI I am so proud of him love the idea thank you WYCLEF

woodly stinfil   August 5th, 2010 9:40 pm ET

I am glade he decided to run for president ,specially HAITI had been through alot and I believe he can do something for those people in HAITI

Gladys Jose   August 5th, 2010 11:08 pm ET

What is Mr. Wyclef Jean's background? What is his education? I am a bet puzzled. Many passed president thought of leading Haiti alone, yet none of them have delivered the will of the Haitian People. Sac Passe, Nap Boule mean to me: What' s up, we are hanging there. It should be: Sac Passe: Good Justice, Good Government. Money is not really the issue. Many previous presidents were rich. Good justice seems to be the issue that prevents the happiness of the Haitian People. Who are Mr. Jean's opponents? Who will be his secretaries? What is his real agenda? Mr. Jean needs to be more specific. The people of Haiti need a leader that will bring them to self sufficiency. I want a debate between the candidates like they proceed in the United States. I may be wrong, but I was shocked to hear the news. My friends feel the same. Mr. Jean seems to be more an advocate for the poor. Is he running to become president of Port-Au-Prince or president of Haiti? This is his right like any Haitian, but until we can do it right, we will always have big dreams. I understand he does not speak French. Where does he stand with the international community? Is he going to respect the constitution of Haiti? If he does not, that will give ground to other problems besides the present ones. Music and dance are part of Haitian culture, but they are not all. To lead Haiti requires more than music and dance. To lead Haiti is to lead with justice for all.

Leo   August 9th, 2010 5:09 am ET

People who become Presidents with love of the people in that country make very good Presidents. Just like Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Wyclef too could becom the Savior of Haiti.

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