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Yele-Haiti Charity Profile
Dear Yéle family,
On August 17, 2010, an article about Wyclef Jean and Yéle Haiti, the charitable organization he co-founded in 2005, appeared in The New York Times (“Star’s Candidacy in Haiti Puts Scrutiny on Charity”). The article contained allegations that were both inaccurate and misleading; I will cite just three examples here.
The article alleges that residents of some of the estimated 70,000 people living in the 34 tent camps to which Yéle distributes water, food, clothing and other supplies reported never having received anything from the organization. I don’t doubt that there are individuals for whom this is the case, but random interviews amidst the chaos and suffering in these camps is not grounds for dismissing months of well-documented delivery of relief supplies. A case in point: Since the earthquake, Yéle has delivered more than 2.3 million gallons of water to these camps using a fleet of 14 tanker trucks, each carrying 1,200 gallons of potable water—an operation that we plan to expand in coming months.
The article presented as fact a disgruntled ex-employee’s untruthful account of a contract through which Yéle paid $250,000 over a period of three years to a commercial television station in Haiti owned by Wyclef Jean. An independent audit of Yéle deemed the transaction appropriate because the fully documented services rendered were at market value or less. As to whether the resulting programming featured Wyclef Jean, the answer is yes. That is because every one of the activities he was filmed participating in—including free outdoor concerts, sports matches, youth rap competitions supporting street cleaning, food distribution programs and more—was sponsored by Yéle.
Jean was also filmed with celebrities he brought to Haiti to help build global awareness for the country. He took Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to visit boy prisoners who were part of a Yéle-supported rehabilitation program and met children who were in school through a Yéle-supported scholarship program. He performed with Akon for a free Yéle-sponsored concert in Port-au-Prince, and then the two of them visited a Yéle program involving local women preparing meals for schools without kitchens. He accompanied Matt Damon on a tour of flood-ravaged Gonaives, and they jointly issued an appeal on behalf of the United Nations for international financial assistance for the region. Celebrities have been key to Yéle’s fundraising efforts as well as to our work building global awareness for Haiti. Celebrity support for charitable causes and organizations has become standard operating procedure across the globe—Yéle is certainly not alone in this practice.
The third example I’d like to address involves Yéle Corps, our cash-for-work program that began operation Aug. 9, with the first 200 workers cleaning streets in Port-au-Prince. Wyclef Jean announced the program on July 12, the six-month anniversary of the earthquake, and those who had signed up to start Aug. 9 were asked to take part in that announcement and paid the standard day rate of $7. They were not “dismissed because the program had not yet been fully planned,” a fact made clear to the Times reporter who sat in on a Yéle Corps training session for team leaders and inspectors on Aug. 7. The writer is also incorrect in suggesting that those signing up for Yéle Corps were asked for their electoral card. They were asked for their “numero d’immatriculation fiscal” or NIF number, the equivalent of a Social Security number, which is on the Haitian electoral card. A small but very important distinction.
Yéle Haiti has a responsibility to ensure that our activities are independent of Wylef Jean’s campaign now that he has stepped down from the organization to run for president. We were a small organization transformed by the generosity of the public as we stepped forward to respond to the earthquake like so many other groups. We have struggled to expand and improve our management in response to this transformation, and the organization is proud of what we have accomplished and stands committed to continuing to help Haiti rebuild.
President, Yéle Haiti