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Haiti hits celebrities’ hearts
Wyclef Jean is hardly a household name here in America, but when he reportedly asked for help from a man whose name is known worldwide, that man, Tiger Woods, said count me in. As for Mr. Jean, a Haitian-American known for his music and humanitarianism, when news broke Tuesday evening that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake had rocked his homeland, he headed southward.
Since then, Mr. Jean, pro athletes and Hollywood celebrities of considerable renown have been tweeting, blogging and urging their colleagues to do the right thing and answer the call for help in the neediest of nations in the Western Hemisphere. Many of them have relatives and friends who were in Haiti when the quake struck but do not know whether those relatives are dead or alive.
Mr. Jean, 37, son of a Nazarene pastor and nephew of Haiti's U.S. ambassador, Raymond Joseph, was speaking on the phone with someone in Haiti when the quake struck about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. He said in an early plea that the true magnitude of the human disaster is indescribable and that "idle hands will only make this tragedy worse."
For Pierre Garcon of the Indianapolis Colts, the race to beat death and further destruction leaves him with a personal and professional dilemma. On Saturday, he and his teammates are set to face the Baltimore Ravens in a win-or-go-home AFC playoff game, which means he must keep his mind's eye on his job as a wide receiver. But the fact that he cannot contact Haitian family members weighs on his heart.
"Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. We still have not heard much from them, and my mom is still trying to call them," Mr. Garcon, who is U.S.-born to Haitian parents, told Agence France Press. "I'm keeping in contact with my mom. It's tough to get in touch with people down there because of the phone lines."
The World Boxing Council's welterweight champion, Andre Berto, already knows he has lost relatives to the quake and that others remain missing.
"Like many other Haitian-Americans, my family and I are working to reach my loved ones," said Mr. Berto, who fought for Haiti at the Athens Olympics. "From what we have learned to this point, some of my family members are still missing, and we have already been informed that members of my family have passed away in the earthquake."
Haitian native Samuel Dalembert of the NBA Philadelphia 76ers can't reach his dad and continues to try to reach other relatives on the island nation.
"I can only imagine what people there are going through," the Sixers' center said. "It's really killing me right now. ... It's unthinkable. Imagine all the people just inside, and the building just collapses."
It is the "unthinkable" that moved Mr. Jean and other celebrities not just to move but to move quickly. They understand, as President Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and relief workers have said, that getting supplies and boots on the ground as soon as possible is a life-and-death issue for known survivors and Haitians who remain unaccounted for and to maintain law and order.
Mr. Ban said Thursday that the goal is to save as many lives as possible by tomorrow, and he called the response from around the globe "one of the most heartening facts in this otherwise heartbreaking story."
The New York Daily News pointed out that the Haitian relief effort would be Mr. Woods' "first foray into public life" since his sex scandal forced an indefinite leave of absence from touring.
"Tiger is working on sending a mobile hospital with 50 EMTs to go set up a triage," hip-hop icon Russell Simmons told the newspaper. "I am just asking for his heart and his hand. Just to meet the needs of the people."
Mr. Simmons said Mr. Jean's face shouldn't be the only one of relief - and it isn't. Celebrities are urging their Twitter and Facebook followers to donate to UNICEF and the American Red Cross, which already has said the organization is low on supplies. Some kindhearted celebs are simply saying to follow the lead of Mr. Jean and give to Yele Haiti Foundation, which he founded in 2005.
"Warriors Haiti needs your help Send to Haiti right now by texting Yele to 501501 ... Every 1 Represent!" comedian Marlon Wayans tweeted.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who have visited Haiti alongside Mr. Jean, are donating $1 million to Doctors Without Borders.
"We understand the first response is critical to serve the immediate needs of countless people who are now displaced from their homes, are suffering trauma, and most require urgent care," Mr. Pitt said.
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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