Grammy award winning recording artist Wyclef Jean is set to take the reigns of a new non-political, international humanitarian effort to help the people of Haiti rebuild their shattered nation. The movement, called Yele Haiti, will focus on education, entrepreneurship, community development, health and environmental issues. Among projects being planned are rebuilding schools, funding community development projects, providing small loans to low income persons, educating Haiti's youth on HIV/AIDS and job creation through environmental projects. A free concert will also be staged in Haiti in the spring of 2005 for up to 1.5 million people.
Yele Haiti was officially launched December 9th in New York where Wyclef performed with artists from the hip-hop community and beyond. Scheduled to perform was Roberta Flack, Nelly McKay, Cassandra Wilson, Common, Bilal, Jeff (Tain) Watts and Ben Jelen. Actress Susan Sarandon also made a special presentation.
Yele Haiti was founded by Wyclef himself, and now boasts a bevy of celebrity support from the music, film, and television community. Among those who will provide assistance to the cause so far are Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, Tyra Banks, Jonathan Demme, Roberta Flack, and Haitians Mona Scott, Dumas Simeus, Maryse Kedar and Gepsie Metellus.
Haiti, now among the world's poorest nations, has been ravaged by floods and political unrest with the ousting of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the past year. The country is overrun with rival gangs loyal to different political factions. The unemployment rate sits currently at 80% and 99% of the natural tree cover is gone. The average life expectancy is only 52 years, well below the world average. Wyclef wants Haitians and the international community to know that there is a way for Haitians to rebuild and move forward in their lives:
"Haiti is my native country, one I know as the first black nation to gain independence in 1804. Most other people seem to know Haiti only by the statistics about how bad things are there. Yele Haiti is about showing Haitians that there is a way out, and that it starts with them. It's also about showing the
international community that there is a strong Haitian spirit that can be supported in order to foster creativity and ideas which can prove valuable to the world for both business and culture."
To learn more about Yele Haiti go to www.yele.org.
Writer: Joe Henley