Hope – and Help – for Haiti Now

HaitiCanada.jpgAid agencies and world leaders meeting in Montreal today will begin the hard work of putting in place a strategy to rebuild Haiti.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, who is hosting the hastily convened conference, the focus will be on Haiti’s long-term reconstruction.

Groups such as the Red Cross and World Vision are expected to focus on the Haitian economy, education and health-care systems when they address dignitaries – including Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

Meanwhile Canadians showed their commitment to Haiti relief as well, responded to a star-studded appeal to help the victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake by donating more than $9.4-million Friday night during a sombre telethon. The figure will be matched by the federal government bringing the total to $18.8-million.

Almost 92,000 donations were made, including one gift of $100,000. Donations were to be shared by several non-profit groups including the Canadian Red Cross Society, Care Canada, Free the Children, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Quebec, Plan Canada, Save the Children Canada, UNICEF Canada and World Vision Canada.

The hour-long special, aired in tandem with Hope for Haiti Now, a Hollywood-driven telethon led by George Clooney. Entertainment giants including Steven Spielberg and Julia Roberts manned the phones, taking calls from donors. More than $57-million was raised in the effort.

“The public has set a new standard of giving for a relief telethon with Hope for Haiti Now, and the donations continue to come in,” Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, said in a statement released Saturday. The group is helping to oversee the funds gathered from the event.

The two-hour US telethon aired Friday night on the major networks and dozens of other channels, and was also streamed live online. Stars including Brad Pitt, Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and others spoke out to encourage donations for Haiti, following a Jan. 12 earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people.

wyclef2.jpgMost of the show was sombre and tear-jerking, until Haiti’s own native son put an end to the despairing tone.

“Enough of this moping, man: Let’s rebuild Haiti, let’s show ’em how we do it where we come from!” Wyclef Jean, the singer and producer, shouted after singing the downbeat “Rivers of Babylon” with a Haitian flag around his neck.
He segued into the joyful tune “Yele” with an island beat, as musicians danced around him, singing the refrain: “Earthquake, we see the earth shake, but the soul of the Haitian people will never break!”

Canadians can continue to donate at www.canadaforhaiti.com, by calling 1-877-514-2484 or texting AID to 45678.

photo credit: KEYSTONE PRESS