Celebrities (oh, how I hate the word!) lent their star power to help the people of Haiti in a telethon last night that originated in Los Angeles, New York, London and Haiti. The concert was broadcast in the United States and Canada, and seen by hundreds of millions of international viewers on cable and satellite channels, and the Internet. Alicia Keys set the tone for the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. Against a backdrop of grim images of the January 12th earthquake, she made a musical call for help for the people of Haiti. (You can download the concert from i-tunes.)
The fundraiser was organized by actor George Clooney, who spoke of the suffering caused by the devastating earthquake, which has killed about 200,000 people. “This is an opportunity to help a neighbor in need, in desperate need, and to do it with swiftness, expertise, generosity, and love,” he said.
Hollywood stars recited dramatic tales of survivors and rescue workers. Leonardo DiCaprio told of a doctor from the medical charity Partners in Health, which is one of the beneficiaries of the telethon. Like many relief workers in the disaster-stricken region, DiCaprio says the doctors of this group face a shortage of supplies and need to improvise. DiCaprio, who has donated $1 million to the relief effort, was among those answering phone calls from viewers calling to make donations. Hollywood volunteers included director Steven Spielberg, actor Mel Gibson, and actresses Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon. CNN’s Anderson Cooper provided live updates from Haiti, showing graphic video and interviewing survivors, including two children who had been pulled from the rubble.
Musical performers included Madonna, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono and The Edge. Sheryl Crow performed with Kid Rock and Keith Urban, and Bruce Springsteen sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean has returned to Haiti since the earthquake and spoke of carrying bodies to the cemetery. With a Haitian flag wrapped around his neck, he closed the concert with a call to rebuild Haiti, singing a song in honor of the country.
Some of the funds raised in the telethon will go to Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation. Other charities that will benefit from the drive are Oxfam America, the Red Cross, UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Foundation, which was recently formed by the two former U.S. presidents.