News / Americas

Helping Haiti is Personal Mission for 'Heroes' Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis

Haitian-born actor Jimmy Jean-Louis of the popular NBC series 'Heroes' at the 'Sustainable Haiti' conference in Miami, 18 Mar 2010
Haitian-born actor Jimmy Jean-Louis of the popular NBC series 'Heroes' at the 'Sustainable Haiti' conference in Miami, 18 Mar 2010

Click to Listen:

Download/Play Audio File

A year-and-a-half ago, Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) asked Haitian-born actor, Jimmy Jean-Louis to be its Goodwill Ambassador for children. Jean-Louis, is perhaps best known for his role as the "Haitian" in the NBC hit series "Heroes".  Independent, non-profit PADF has over 150 people all over Haiti working on projects such as protecting human rights, community-driven development and disaster relief. After January 12, PADF partnered with Hollywood Unites For Haiti, his own foundation. 

As rewarding as the work has been, the actor is now on a personal mission to help rebuild the country where he was born and where he still has family.  An emotional Jean-Louis talked about the devastation he saw after the January 12 earthquake and during his subsequent visits back to his homeland.   

"Right after the earthquake it was that sense of - I was happy to go back to my parents, because they were there, when the earthquake took place," Jean-Louis explains. His parents' home is located in Tabarre, just outside Port-au-Prince. Jean-Louis says his family is doing "good...better" after the earthquake. 

"My parents lost their house, my sister lost her house - pretty much everybody lost whatever they had in Haiti. But it's just material," Jean-Louis notes. "I think everybody is in that same state." 

Jimmy Jean-Louis didn't lose any close relatives on January 12 but he did lose some distant relatives. And his house collapsed, killing a 28-year-old man who was living there. After telling the story, the actor pauses to contemplate the tragedy of a young life lost so suddenly - there's sadness in his eyes.

Although he lives a somewhat charmed, Hollywood life, Jimmy Jean-Louis says he always enjoys going back to Haiti - even now.   

"What goes through my mind when I go back to Haiti? It's always joy regardless of the situation. Even with the earthquake it's one place where I feel complete," he says. "I just feel being myself whenever I'm in Haiti."  

Jean-Louis just got back from Haiti. Accompanying him were Dominican-born actress Dania Ramirez who also stars in "Heroes" and former National Basketball Association player Cliff Robinson. Robinson played for the New Jersey Nets until 2007.

Jean-Louis says what he saw was very painful. He mentions the St. Louis de Gonzague neighborhood that has become a "huge" tent city. People are living in very tight quarters he says.  The actor remembers thinking about those tent-dwellers while lying in bed at his home in Haiti on a rainy night. He says the area where the tent city is located is flat meaning a heavy rainfall floods their living quarters.

"It's heartbreaking to know that they're living under those conditions," an emotional Jean-Louis says. "Some of them don't even have any food the next day - or at least have some kind of ... comfort - so it's a really bad situation, it doesn't matter how you look at it. Now we have to find solutions."

Jimmy Jean-Louis hopes celebrities who travel to Haiti will keep the country in the news and on people's minds.

"Both of them [Dania Ramirez and Cliff Robinson] now are going to be able to reach out to a lot of people because they have a big network," Jean Louis says. Robinson has access to NBA fans while Ramirez also has many fans due to her appearance in the popular movie "X-Men".

But Jean-Louis hopes the involvement and visits by more Hollywood celebrities will keep attention on the country. 

"If it's a question of having to do the effort without being pushed, they might not do it," he says. "[But] There are still a lot of people in Hollywood dedicated to the Haitian cause."  Jean-Louis cites actor Sean Penn who has spent a lot of time inside Haiti helping to rebuild and provide humanitarian assistance. Penn established a private Haiti relief foundation with a U.S. businesswoman.  He says movie director Paul Haggis has also taken many celebrities to Haiti during his visits. Among them: Josh Brolin, Diane Lane and Madeleine Stowe.     

Asked whether he thinks the "Sustainable Haiti" conference discussion forums will have any impact in real terms on Haiti, the actor says he thinks change will happen. He also thinks it would be beneficial to organize a similar type of conference inside Haiti. 

Stories on Haiti have significantly diminished in the press, more than two months after the devastating 7.0 earthquake. But Jimmy Jean-Louis hopes his effort as PADF ambassador and those pursued by his foundation, will make a difference.

"What I've been trying to do is keep that issue alive," he says. "We just have to keep reminding them, we have to. In America, in Asia, in Europe we have to keep Haiti on the map. We have to keep Haiti in the news, because otherwise we're not going to have the help that is necessary to do what we need to do to rebuild Haiti."  

The actor says it will require money and constant attention and he's committed to making sure that happens.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

World's largest gamma ray observatory will be situated high in Sierra Negra Mountain to discover secrets about black holes and supernovas
More

Drownings of Migrants Along Rio Grande Increase

Increased patrols are pushing immigrants, desperate to avoid detection, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas, leading to surge in drownings
More

US, Cuba Teams Discuss Telecommunications Issues

US delegation visited Cuba this week as the two nations continued efforts to restore diplomatic relations broken over 50 years ago
More

Egyptian Court Adjourns Trial of Al Jazeera Journalists to April 22

Two journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist organization, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt banned following 2013 army takeover
More

Rio Exhibition Dramatizes Olympian Bay Cleanup Task

Display highlights problem of trash in Guanabara Bay, where sailing, windsurfing events are to take place in next Summer Games
More

Chile Says Drought Permanent, Lays Out Water Plan

President Michelle Bachelet says government will invest in desalinization plants and reservoirs to ensure access to potable water
More