I have to admit I'm a little biased with this one because Grammy Award-winning Wyclef Jean is my absolute favorite musician. But that doesn't mean he doesn't deserve the honor of being an eco-celeb. In fact his humanitarian foundation, Yéle Haiti (www.yele.org), actually does a lot more than help the environment. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, about half of the population lives at an extreme poverty rate. Sixty percent of Haitians are illiterate and the education system is in shambles. When it comes to the natural environments, 98% of the forests have been destroyed and two-thirds of the farmland is now destroyed, making it even more difficult to feed the poverty-stricken country.
When Wyclef, a Haitian native, created Yéle Haiti (yéle mean's freedom), the goal was to combine music with sustainable development to give today's children a better Haiti for tomorrow. He enlists hip-hop musicians to help distribute food in gang-controlled neighborhoods and to draw crowds to help promote his HIV testing initiatives. His organization has put children in school, supported sports programs, created environmental education programs and has given children access to modern technological resources. Yéle Haiti also creates jobs for adults that include everything from street cleaning to creating food businesses especially for women employees. These women receive business and management training and part of the meals they make are donated to local orphanages and hospitals.
On the environmental front, Yéle Haiti launched Ecole Verte. Because only 2% of Haitians forests remain, Haiti is vulnerable to droughts and floods, which further destroy what farmlands are left standing. The program educates youth by taking urban kids out of the city for environmental education camping trips. Together, the children plant fruit-bearing trees to help feed the nation. This information is then integrated into the curriculum of Haitian schools. And in the works is a tree-planting initiative called Haiti Vert Espoir (green hope) that will establish 50 community-based tree nurseries throughout the country.
The nonprofit organization does all this and so much more (everything from projecting films in poor, electricity-free neighborhoods to distributing battery powered radios to keep people informed of news and give advance warning if a national disaster strikes). Wyclef's efforts are proof that being an internationally known star doesn't have to blind you into forgetting exactly where you came from. and reaching out to help make that place better for everyone. The more I learn about him, the more I love him for more than just his amazing music.