North Texas Daily

Musician helps earthquake victims

Musician helps earthquake victims

April 13
22:25 2010

OPINION

It’s been three months since the earthquake on Jan. 12 pounded Haiti, the country where I was born. People are starting to rebuild, but the quake left 1.3 million people homeless and 300,000 injured. It will take months to feed all the hungry and shelter the homeless. And that’s just the beginning. In a country of 9 million, about 230,000 died. Everyone knows someone who died. I had friends who died. Everyone there has a hole in his heart.

Of the many emergency situations in Haiti right now, one of the biggest is helping the 200,000 people who have lost limbs in the aftermath of the quake. Because of the risk of fatal infections, amputation is often the only answer to save lives. Incredible numbers of people will need prosthetic devices and continuing care.

The Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia is one of those stepping up, offering free medical care for three girls who lost their limbs in the earthquake. Margarette Pierre, 17, lost her arm to above her elbow. Chantal Mori, also 17, lost her arm. Farah Maurice, 8, lost her leg to above her knee. They are expected to arrive in Philadelphia this week.

Imagine what an emotional journey this will be for the victims who have already endured so much. That’s why Yele Haiti — the organization I founded eight years ago to help people in my home country — will work with the Global Medical Relief Fund to send the girls and their relatives from Port-au-Prince to Philadelphia, where the girls will be treated at Shriners. Everybody is pulling together to make it happen and give the patients a chance for a normal life.

Since Jan. 12, Yele Haiti has spent more than $1.3 million in recovery and relief work and has plans to spend nearly $8 million more. We’re shipping containers stuffed with food, clothes, blankets and medical supplies. Two weeks ago, my wife, Claudinette, went there with a group of NFL players and took these necessities to thousands of struggling families in places like Gressier and Leogane.

In the last two months, we’ve prepared and distributed 84,000 hot meals, delivered close to 700,000 gallons of filtered water, erected 120 tents for shelter and given out hundreds of food ration kits. We also supported Airline Ambassadors, a group that gives humanitarian aid to children and families, in their work to airlift medical and relief supplies to victims. Yele is small in terms of paid employees, but we’re blessed to have an army of thousands of volunteers we call the Yele Corps. They’re my warriors of good.

Haiti was already one of the poorest countries in the world before this disaster, with most Haitians living on less than $2 a day. There were shortages of food, fuel and clean water, and many were already living in shocking housing conditions. Now comes the rebuilding, but that’s just the beginning. We must invest in Haiti’s future so the children can realize a better life.

I’ve started developing Yele Village, which will give hundreds of people jobs, and we’re going to include a school, a kitchen that will feed the hungry and teach its workers skills, a medical clinic and an orphanage.

The task can be overwhelming at times. When Claudinette was giving out supplies, she broke down and cried. But just as we have given Margarette, Chantal and Farah a chance, one by one we must help other Haitians who have suffered so much.

When you plant seeds for a mango tree, you can’t grasp the fruit from the tree the next day — it has not grown yet. That’s like our work in Haiti. We’re planting seeds day after day. The fruits of our labors are starting to grow, and before we know it, we’re going to have groves of mango trees. Thanks to our volunteers and the efforts of so many others, we are going to fill the holes in the Haitians’ hearts.

Wyclef Jean is a Grammy-winning musician and record producer. He wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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