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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

UN Focuses on Global Effort to End Violence Against Women

Sixteen-day UN campaign will attempt to raise awareness about violent realities faced by many of world's women and girls

Canada Extends Deadline to Bring in 25,000 Syrian Refugees

Humanitarian workers across Middle East have been gearing up for massive airlift of Syrian refugees to Canada

Canada Refugee Plan Revives Concerns Over Porous US Border

Border agents, some residents say they are concerned about Ottawa's plan to bring in 25,000 Syrians by year-end, even though the government there insists its screening will be thorough

Quake in Mexico Shakes Capital, No Reported Damage or Injuries

USGS says 5.5. magnitude quake had its epicenter 257 km (160 miles) south of Mexico City in the southwestern state of Guerrero

Venezuela Opposition Delighted at Macri's Argentina Presidential Win

Activists see election result in Argentina as blow for leftists in Latin America, good omen for their parliamentary vote next month

Climate Change Sends Chile's Wine Industry Southward

Vintners in the world's fourth largest wine exporter are watching some of their promising vines wither with climate change