Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis Heading to Haiti
Date: Friday, March 12, 2010, 5:59 am
By: Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com
By: Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Jimmy Jean-Louis of the NBC hit show “Heroes,” NBA star Cliff Robinson and the NFL’s Terrell Owens are expected to arrive in Haiti Friday to assess conditions there 60 days after a devastating earthquake struck the island nation.
“You hear a lot of things,” said the Haitian-born Jean-Louis. “Obviously, I have family there, and they tell me one thing. My nonprofit, Hollywood Unites for Haiti, hears something else; the Pan-American Development Foundation is there, and they see something else. I’m hearing all kinds of things, and they’re all different.”
The Pan-American Development Foundation, the natural disaster relief arm of the Organization of American States, has worked with Jean-Louis’ foundation to clear debris, help Haitians return to their homes where possible and deliver needed supplies.
The PADF also raises money for disaster relief and has assisted more than 300,000 Haitians since the quake.
Hollywood Unites for Haiti originally was formed to promote sports and cultural activities for the underprivileged youth of Haiti, but expanded its role to mobilize relief efforts after the earthquake.
Jean-Louis and his colleagues plan to distribute supplies and visit sites where the PADF has worked to clear up rubble remaining since the earthquake, and Owens and Robinson are expected to contribute scholarship money and other kinds of help.
The PADF is shipping supplies in 40-foot cargo containers and has a program that will inspect 20,000 homes within the next four weeks. Using a U.S. system employed after Hurricane Katrina ripped the Gulf Coast, homes will be tagged green, yellow or red to indicate whether the homes are safe for people to return to them.
“Hollywood Unites for Haiti and the PADF have been doing some of that work, but only in small houses and small areas. We are in need of financial support,” Jean-Louis told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “There’s still a lot more that we need. We lost a country there; this is something that people have to understand. We lost the heart of the country - the capital, hospitals, banks, universities, hotels - everything that makes a country.”
Jean-Louis said he also wants to see whether any progress has been made in neighborhoods that sustained more severe damage and determine how people are managing to hold on where help has been slow to arrive.
“One thing that I hope will happen as far as Haiti is concerned is that the international borders open for Haiti, not for the Haitians to flee out, but for the businesses to go back and forth,” he said.
“I believe Haiti has been isolated for years. For the past 200 years, Haiti has been embargoed, has had no relationship with the superpowers. I think that’s one of the reasons Haiti has died within itself. It’s hard to be an island with closed borders. If that changes, then I truly believe Haiti will go back on its feet and thrive again” with trade, tourism and international commerce, said Jean-Louis.
On Thursday night, the House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 4573, the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act of 2010, which calls for debt relief for Haiti. The Senate is expected take up the bill soon.
“Debt relief is essential to Haiti’s ability to move forward with its recovery,” Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a statement. “By removing this burden, we allow Haiti’s limited resources to be directed to the urgent needs of relief, recovery and rebuilding.
The bill calls for the U.S., the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other multilateral development institutions to cancel all debt Haiti owes those institutions, suspend debt service payments and provide additional assistance to keep Haiti from accumulating additional debt.
Haiti owes a total of $828 million to multilateral financial institutions. Haiti also owes about $400 million to other individual countries.
While Haiti needs and appreciates the help from the international community, Jean-Louis said that it maintain sovereignty is also important.
“I also hope that the control of Haiti will remain with the Haitians, with the help of the international organizations and governments. When you become such a fragile country, it’s a situation where anything can happen. So, yes, it is one of the concerns. I prefer not to feed that concern, but to believe that humankind is better than that, and if there is any help, it will be to truly help, not take over,” he said.
The primary mission now, however, is addressing the immediate needs of Haiti’s citizenry.
“The eyes are not on Haiti as they were the first few weeks (after the earthquake), and that’s normal,” Jean-Louis said, “but the idea is to keep the eyes and news on Haiti because Haiti is struggling. And will be struggling for months and years to come.”