Wyclef Jean calls for evacuating Haiti's capital, speaks out in defense of his foundation

Perhaps his  executive director just made him look good, and this was certainly an odd press conference (video), but my gut tells me Wyclef is sincere; just sloppy with details.

Since he won't stop trying to raise big text dollars, I just wish he would boast more about the Yele partners, and how he helps find resources to fund their efforts.  That kind of partnering is hardly new in NGOland.

I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of this. I just hope that when we do, it's about something that vindicates my gut.

Wyclef Jean responds to some questions raised by TheSmokingGun, the AP, and others:


I had expected that they would arrange some event in Haiti to answer some  of the many questions raised.  I never thought he was a "crook," ever. I don't think anyone else said he was, either. Only that there was some sloppy IRS paperwork, questionable accounting, and very little organization to speak of.   All of those things can be true of a bona fide and well intentioned philanthropist.

My only complaint about any of this is how it was presented as as huge relief effort, when in fact, it's a very small  organization with no resources to even begin to assemble or distribute such massive aid. 

Yele isn't a disaster relief organization… but rather, it's a humanitarian mission.  That's important and ongoing, but not the immediate crisis that millions of dollars are being raised for. Donors want to know that huge supplies of water, food, medicine and shelter are being delivered on the ground–and right now.  Experience proves that it's very large organizations that are best able to do that kinda of work.  Just today, the Red Cross boasted of delivering a plant that can produce "10,000 gallons of water a day."  That's about 20,000 people a day, in a city of 2 million. Every dollar counts.  While the poverty of Haiti is gruesome and sad, it's also a long term problem. Right now, we have a short term crisis that needs huge funding to prevent massive loss of life.

Whatever the nature of this, videos are often designed to deflect. I hope this one is not, and that he's sincere.  I hope he has asked someone at Yele to find some documentation, so his fans and donors are not just relying on a video appeal for his cred.

I hope some of these Yele partners will step forward and make donors comfortable that they are receiving support from Yele/Wyclef's fundraising. That would go a long way toward settling the questions TSG and others raised, and he can get on with his obviously sincere and passionate desire to help Haiti and its people.

I had started out referring Yele.org, but after just a few minutes of research, I thought better of it. What follows were my first posts and updates on it, which just outgrew my Haiti Links page. Sorry if prose is a bit ragged;  the result of too many incremental updates.

Note: I want to again stress that I am in no way bashing Wyclef's goals, or intentions, nor suggesting any of this fuzzy information about his organization must mean it's suspect. I am suggesting that this much money going to very small organizations, simply on the basis of their having access to celebrities, the media, and a 3rd party commercial texting company that milks these issues regularly, just demands that questions be asked. Donors deserve to feel secure that their money is being used effectively.  I am simply presenting what is known. As of yet, I have not been able to find a single organization that will go on record about Yele's effectiveness. I hope to, soon.

About Yele.org and Wyclef Jean. — I have had my concerns about this organization, and the more research I do, the less comfortable I am.  That is not an indictment of them, but merely evidence of a big question mark looming large. Even if they are completely on the up-and-up, they have raised  $2 million dollars, thus far, and nowhere can I find where they account for how this money will be spent. All they say is that it will  go to their "sister organization" in Haiti, and that's all that is said about it. Not a single mention of programs, services, administration, boots on the ground, or past successes (outside of their own press releases and puff pieces all over the web). That gives me a lot of pause.  I hope it's unwarranted.   Browsing their IRS 990s at Guidestar.org didn't help.  They claim to not compensate anyone.  Again, they may be fine. But if you want to be sure of where your money is going, they would not be my first choice.

Update1: TheSmokingGun.com has been investigating Yele too:  Wyclef Charity's Funny Money.  I won't make too much out of the 990 IRS filings. It's not a good sign, but it's not conclusive of any wrongdoing. But it does show that Wyclef's organization is very, very small, and likely to have very little relief experience in these kinds of situations.

  I have called the Charity Navigator, trying to confirm that these organizations are in fact "partners" with Yele Haiti. (As Yele claims).  As of yet, not one low level staffer from those groups had ever heard of Yele.  That is hardly conclusive, but still, this story gets murkier and murkier.

  Yele now announces this big relief flight next week, from Federal Express. I have this odd feeling that I am going to learn that this alliance is not really an alliance at all. But we shall see.  Again, read carefully. This entire effort is to fly in goods dropped off at a LOCAL Miami office. One office. Color me cynical, but this just ain't passing my smell test, yet, for a multi million dollar "relief effort"

Update4: I missed this while Googling today. It seems they are confirming much of what I've been saying. but you can tell, they are working from press releases, or Wyclef-supplied info.  The advice of the experts in this article should not be discounted. 

Wyclef Jean Yéle relief: Is this best way to help Haiti? (Christian Science Monitor)

Other Stories

Groups raise doubts about Wyclef Jean's charity – NY Times

Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation under fiscal scrutiny – washingtonpost.com

BBB Advises Donors on How to Vet Haiti Earthquake Charity Appeals

The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) rates top 20 charites in Haiti (Yele isn't among them).