On December 5, 2011, Echelon Donates was mentioned in Dinheiro Vivo, a Portuguese news source. The story was written by the journalist Ana Rita Guerra. Miss Guerra was so kind to provide us with an English translation, which you can read after the break.
To see the original story, click here.
Haiti. Charity and tourism amidst the wreckage
Almost two years after the earthquake that devastated Caribbean’s poorest island, Haiti has vanished from the media radar. After the massive international help movement that was raised in 2010, involving all kinds of companies and celebrities, Haiti is back on the outskirts of the world’s attention. The nine million people island’s economy hasn’t recovered from a deep recession. The country depends on foreign help and is still working on the reconstruction of the areas hit harder, especially Port-au-Prince.
But help keeps coming to the country, mostly from non-profit organizations, foundations and more recently a rock band’s fan base. And at the end of the day, Haiti is highly dependent on international credit and loans, even after the IMF canceled the country’s debt. Haiti Reconstruction Fund, Rebuilding Haiti, Clinton Foundation and Echelon Donates are among the organizations helping Haiti. Yesterday, Bill Clinton’s Foundation announced a new Marriott hotel will be built in Port-au-Prince. The 44 million dollars hotel is set to open mid-2014 and will employ 174 people. Why? Because the Haitian government believes that tourism is the key to a brighter future in Haiti.
“This new hotel project will stand as a symbol of Haiti’s recovery, providing much needed jobs to the Haitian people and encouraging foreigners to visit, invest and work in Port-au-Prince”, Clinton said. Digicel Group will design and build the hotel, following a Clinton-backed partnership with Marriott group. Digicel is the largest private investor in the country, having built 70 schools, rebuilt the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince and being the largest telecom provider.
To promote the country, president Michel Martelly flew in to Caracas, Venezuela, where he’s attending the inaugural meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. “We want to show the other part of Haiti that has never been shown to the world”, he told AFP. Martelly doesn’t want Haiti to be forever associated to poverty and misery.
But one of Haiti’s greatest challenges is getting the reconstruction process to go faster. Only 2% of the natural forest is intact, which poses a problem since trees are the primary fuel source used to cook and boil water. “Cholera is a widespread issue in Haiti from the lack of clean drinking water”, Alicia Zen has told us. Alicia is a business banker living in New York and has launched a tree-planting donation project together with Sophie, computer-science student from Greece.
That project is Echelon Donates, based on alternative rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars fans, the Echelon: they are encouraged to donate small amounts of money through PayPal. Jared Leto, the band’s lead singer, and Shannon Leto, his brother and drummer, have lived in Haiti when they were kids. Jared is set to publish a book with photos taken in Haiti after the earthquake and all of the profits will be given to charities working in the island. Same for the last show of the tour Closer to the Edge, which will be played by the end of the week in New York.
Echelon were inspired and wanted to give back. Alicia details that Echelon Donates has been able to raise 6,000 dollars so far, through the Yele Vert project (a partnership between Timberland, Yele Haiti and Trees For The Future). This project will be gifted to Jared as a symbol for his 40th birthday, December 26th.
“The Yele Vert project does so much besides just planting trees. This project helps Haiti help themselves. The trees inject much needed fuel, food & assists in local commerce”, says Alicia. Echelon Donates is planning for a future project, possibly linked with medical aid to Haiti – a subject that is paramount to the president’s intention to promote Haiti as a touristic stop.
“I am the leader of a country who has been neglected for the last 200 years,” Martelly said in Caracas. “It is my responsibility to bring development to Haiti,” he added, saying he regrets that all the money and help sent to Haiti in the aftermath of the quake have been used for short-term help, instead of focusing on the creation of wealth to get people surviving on their own.
Close to 225,000 people died on January 12th, 2010. This massive earthquake was the most terrible and violent in the past 200 years in Haiti, America’s poorest country.