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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Planning Post-2015 Development

UNDP official calls for investing in people
More

Magnitude 6.3 Quake hits Mexico, No Major Damages, Injuries

Earthquake hit southwest of Juan Rodriguez, in eastern Mexican state of Veracruz at a depth of 95 km (60 miles), the US Geological Survey says
More

California Governor on 3-day Trade Trip to Mexico

With immigration facilities bursting at the seams, Jerry Brown says child migration is on the agenda during his trade visit
More

UN Sanctions Operator of N. Korean Ship Caught Smuggling Arms

North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang was detained a year ago carrying arms, including two MiG-21 jet fighters, under thousands of tons of sugar
More

Argentina Seeks to Avoid 2nd Debt Default in 13 Years

Argentina says it will make another effort to reach a deal with a group of US creditors
More

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surge

Inaccurate claims suggest US will give amnesty to young migrants
More