Message from Montie

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Wyclef comes back to U.S., 'disgusted' by profit accusations about Yele Haiti Foundation

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Haiti's musician Wyclef Jean, left, arrives at the airport in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, the day after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit his country. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

I read "The Smoking Gun" report "Wyclef Jean Charity's Funny Money" in full, and although the tax issues need to be dealt with, I strongly stand by Wyclef Jean. CNN Money stated, "Experts say that lackadaisical accounting is common among non-profits and is not necessarily a red flag for suspicious behavior." The worst thing the Yele Foundation did was turn tax papers in late, but these accusations that Wyclef was trying to get over on the money end are preposterous to me.

 

I had a discussion on Facebook earlier today with an FB friend about the costs that go into concerts, travel, management, administrative work, etc. That money just doesn't fly out of thin air, and if someone is donating to the cause, they're donating to all of that. And just being realistic here, how much did you hear about donations to Haiti from any other artist or even news programs before last week outside of Wyclef? When selfish people like Bill Maher could've cared as much about Haiti before the earthquake as he does now, Wyclef Jean was still spending time improving the economic situation in Haiti. Even the music artists who are donating now weren't thinking about Haiti before it became the "in" event to donate to while Wyclef was. 

 

 

For as long as I've been a fan of his work, before the Fugees and after, he has always asked people to support Haiti and talked about their economic issues. He's been performing and raising money way before it was the "in" thing to do and has been far more focused on Haiti than other charitable organizations. And he was definitely covering Haitian issues before earthquake last Tuesday.


So when Wyclef finally responded to the accusations that he was using the business as a way to profit, all I kept thinking was "Finally!" Play the video below.



 



So what do you think? Is Wyclef Jean being honest?

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8 Comments

Joe the Cop said:

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I don't think Wyclef Jean is trying to rip anyone off. I just think that he doesn't have experienced people running his foundation, and it's not very efficient or well run. He's well-meaning, but in terms of actually being able to deliver real aid to Haiti right now, I don't think a donation to Yele.org is going to go nearly as far as one to the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, or any of the other more experienced aid groups.

Message from Montie said:

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Wyclef Jean has been making EFFECTIVE donations and bringing awareness way before (and way more actively) Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders or other aid groups. All of them have expenses too, and their workers must be paid like any charitable, non-profit organizations. Just as there are administrative fees for Red Cross, there are travel fees for concerts. Personally I don't care whether people donate here or to another organization as long as Haiti sees the money in the end to help the people. I stand VERY STRONG by Wyclef's statement though.

But Yele has sponsored rehabilitation programs, provided education for Haitian children, distributed funds and food to thousands of families, and given children who were gangs a second chance. The people who are criticizing Wyclef's Foundation probably never even heard of it before last week. Did you?

He's been pushing this organization so long and within the hip hop community to the point where we just expected his organization to jump aboard. "Experienced" aid groups does not mean they don't also have to pay their workers, pay for travel, etc.

DeeDee said:

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Ok, yes Clef's org is not as experienced as bigger named charities but I think that might work in his favor at this point. Red Cross for example has been investigated for bait and switch programs when funds for 911 were sent to other arms of the organization instead of the families of those who perished.

It has instituted racist practices against Afro-Americans in particular (I am speaking of the 1927 flood in Mississippi) when they gave provisions for Whites first. Also not to mention the racist treatment many Black servicemen said that they experienced at the hands of ARC.

And by the way, and Wyclef was explaining this, ARC is a government program. It is not private and it receives money from the gov't to the tune of millions of dollars. It was interesting to me that many of the high ranking officials of ARC are tied into the military somehow.

Let's not even get into the Hurricane Katrina fiasco.

At this point Clef's org strike against him is that it is inexperienced. Haiti has been maligned forever and now a smear-campaign is instituted against a charity created by a Haitian and for Haitians.

Sounds fishy to me... I have my suspicions but I am curious as to who started the smear campaign in the first place. The body count is rising and there are millions more totally devastated and someone is bickering about "possible" financial impropriety. Ridiculous...

And if there is a lot of money to be stolen from a charity during a time of crisis like this... then somebody feels pretty threatened by Clef's service...

Message from Montie said:

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Well, Ms. Dee Dee, you certainly had a lot of great points to add. These are definitely great points to build on the case supporting Wyclef Jean. My issue is also the fact that his organization has been around for quite sometime. Why wait until the earthquake in Haiti to decide to investigate his organization? Even CNN Money pointed out that non-profit organizations are notorious for turning in tax forms late. Their spin on him trying to find more economic resources and using less money than other organizations also supports the fact that he wasn't trying to get over on his donaters by spending lavish amounts to create concerts, etc.

If Wyclef up and said, "Oh, I'm Haitian, time to support" all out of nowhere, I'd take the Smoking Gun's report a little more seriously. However, Wyclef has ALWAYS been bringing awareness to Haiti. I respect what he's doing, as well as other outside organizations who are lesser known like charity:water.

Joe the Cop said:

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Yes, I had heard of Wyclef Jean's foundation before last week.
Wyclef Jean's commitment to Haiti, to poverty and health issues, is laudable. I also respect what he's doing, but respecting good intentions doesn't bring relief to desperate people. I maintain that doesn't have anything to do with whether donating money to yele.org for disaster relief, as opposed to ongoing charity and education programs, is a good idea.

Go to www.charitynavigator.org and compare some of the different relief groups. One mark of an effective charity is the amount they spend on programs vs administrative costs. An efficient charity should spend more than 75% of its revenue on programs.

According to the few forms they've submitted, Yele spends about 69% of its money on programs. CARE spends 90%, the American Red Cross spends 90%, and Doctors Without Borders spends 87%. He's been around "quite some time"!? Since 2005, 4 poorly-documented years, as opposed to 68 years for Oxfam, 38 years for Doctors Without Borders, or 65 years for CARE.

As for your comment that charities routinely turn in tax forms late, that's true. However, not filing any returns for 3 years, and then turning 3 years worth of forms in at the same time, is beyond late.

Message from Montie said:

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Joe, did you read the CNN Money report? Yele actually underspended to make sure more money went to Haiti. In addition to that, all of these other charitable groups spread their money out to different causes. Wyclef's Yele Foundation is strictly and focused not just on disaster relief but education, helping young children get out of gangs, etc. He's not just dropping off disaster relief money. He's helping 365. His administrative costs are not the same as these organizations; they're paying for paperwork and travel for people to distribute funds. The doctors left! Wyclef is paying for full-blown concerts, management costs, travel expenses, equipment, etc. What the other organizations are doing and what he's doing are not the same nor can they be compared. When the Red Cross starts putting on concerts, helping Haitian children in school, trying to eliminate gangs in Haiti, THEN you compare. Until then, it's apples and oranges.

As far as how long the other organizations have been around, that's nice that you decide to look it up. Now look up how much money these organizations have donated to Haiti before 2010! (The only one I'd be willing to bet even cared about Haiti was UNICEF.) It's not like Haiti was this rich, thriving country before. They needed money WAY before this disaster relief program, and I never heard about any of these organizations trying hard to help these folks before Tuesday. Did you?

In addition to that, some other charity could drop in, give some money, help temporarily, but Wyclef is a famous Haitian man. To have a role model like that for Haitian children and for them to see a Haitian man who came from that environment rise up and then come back is undeniably more powerful than all of these organizations put together. He didn't have to come back. He could've come to America and kept it moving.

As CNN Money said, the only thing done wrong was late paperwork. If they catch up on paperwork, they can keep it moving and continue to do what they've been doing. And I'm willing to bet that all of these organizations who care at this moment will move on to something else this time next year while Wyclef will STILL be focused on his foundation.

What blows my mind are the people who try to talk others out of donating to the Yele Foundation who have no intention of donating to Haiti themselves. Did you donate? Are you going to donate? I really don't care who you donate to (if you are) as long as Haiti gets the funds. But to say that Wyclef Jean who grew up in the environment of these kids and adults should leave it up to the big players is one of the many reasons that large, greedy companies continue to swallow up smaller ones. It creates power for the companies and that's when you get situations like what Dee Dee mentioned happening.

Joe the Cop said:

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You seem to be missing my point. I'm glad Wyclef and his foundation are there, and hopefully they'll continue to be part of Haiti's rebuilding. The president of Wyclef's foundation, Hugh Locke, was himself quoted as saying Yele "is not a disaster relief organization".

I'd say that, with upwards of 100,000 corpses rotting in the open and riots breaking out, a proven track record of disaster response is more important at this moment than good intentions, symbolism and education programs. I think it's fine for people to donate to Yele.org, just as long as they don't think their donation is going to do any good in the next few weeks at this most critical time.

"The doctors left"?? Huh? What are you talking about, that one incident in the news where the UN staff ordered medical personnel to evacuate? Doctors Without Borders has been working in Haiti during this entire crisis, they have not left, and have treated hundreds of casualties.

Finally, not that it's any of your business, but I donated to the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders.

Message from Montie said:

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No, it's not my business to know where you donated but the fact that you seem to be so opposed to donating to Yele is what made me bring it up. And may I remind you that you are the one who continues to visit this blog to discuss the issue so of course questions will arise. If we're talking about donating and you're talking about who to donate to, it doesn't seem to be a stretch of a question to ask who YOU donated to.

As far as "a proven track record of disaster response is more important at this moment than good intentions, symbolism and education programs." Guess again! Yele got over $2 million in text donations as soon as disaster struck, not including the money they'd already acquired BEFORE the earthquake. This isn't about "good intentions" and "symbolism." Yele put their money where their mouth was and have a PROVEN track record of helping Haiti. Because they had been an organization that was supporting Haiti from the very beginning, that was the FIRST organization I visited to donate to because I knew the owner actually cared and would KEEP up with Haiti after the news died down.

CNN has a first-hand report about how many doctors left and only one doctor was on hand to help. I'm glad Doctors Without Borders is helping NOW, but a year from now they will leave. I can guarantee that, and Yele Foundation will still be there. Funds will die off just as they did with Hurricane Katrina, even though there are still homeless people who have not been able to get their property years after the government and charities claimed to be helping.

You say "hopefully they'll continue to be part of Haiti's rebuilding." Hopefully?! As I've stated many times before, Yele Foundation was there and focuses on Haiti years before this earthquake. I'd rather donate to an organization that I know is focused on the groups AFTER all the news dies down and won't spread the funds to other causes.

Just because they didn't file paperwork on time DOES NOT MEAN that the money is not being used these past few weeks. Wyclef Jean came back to the U.S. from Haiti in the middle of helping these people. He wasn't sitting at home filing his fingernails waiting for Yele to go into effect. I really don't care WHO you donate to.

My focus is on people donating to an organization that cares when all the press dies down, and that would be Yele! Let's agree to disagree and move on. I see your point. You're in denial about mine.

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