Earlier this evening, a video was posted to YouTube of Wyclef Jean addressing questions that have arisen regarding his charity, Yele Haiti, their financial history, and their ability to impact disaster relief efforts right now.
John Cook noted Yele's "atrocious financial past" became an issue when documents begging questions about it emerged over the last week. A source from Yele Haiti contacted us to back these questions, which Yele president Hugo Locke then contacted us to address. Now, Wyclef's spoken out.
If you don't feel like watching this, here's the short version of what Wyclef said over the
- Wyclef Jean opens by noting that you can "donate to any charity you wanted to,"
- But that "the proof, as we say in America, is in the pudding," so once you see "[his] footage" (that he's going to put up in a few days) you can judge whether "Wyclef is the truth or not."
- He explains what an NGO is, and that he started Yele to "impact certain projects."
- And then explains that he's worked with United Nations, Americare, and Red Cross.
- He denounces claims by saying he's denouncing them. And then explains that you can't do a show—like the one Yele was billed for by Wyclef's for-profit production company—without a production. "You need a manager, you need a tour manager, all these things need to be accounted for."
- He says he never takes money from his own foundation, and that he himself has donated $1M to Yele.
- Wyclef is "disgusted" by accusations of having taken money from Yele for personal profit.
- He wants to partner with other NGOs and looks forward to partnering with other NGOs and raising money to "get results."
- He knows he was "chosen for a reason," and "who's to say" it's not at this time that "his country will rise."
So, not only does he not really say anything other than what bad people those who are questioning the use of donating to Wyclef's charity, but he also attempts to back this with what we can only presume to be more footage documenting devastation in Haiti on top of what we've already seen—as if people haven't seen it—as well as speculative partnerships with other NGOs that there's no evidence of right now.
Also, he missed a few things. Like:
- Why Yele Haiti didn't file a tax return until five months ago.
- Or why Yele directed large sums of money to commercial entities Wyclef Jean and his business partner own stakes in, like Haitian TV company Telemax, S.A., which was paid a "below market" $250,000 for a telethon.
- Or why they paid that same ownership at Platinum Sound, a production company, $100,000 for a Wyclef Jean performance, $25K of which he took as a fee.
- Or the $31K a year Platinum Sound charges Yele in rent for 'workspace' via the Manhattan studio, which is staffed by one person, who's paid $2,600 to work out of the kitchen.
- Or their 2007 fiscal statement, which shows them only taking in $79,000 in public support, and spending $54,711 in travel expenses, with only $503K cash while claiming $956K in liabilities.
- Also, the Yele staffer who noted that they don't have the wherewithall relief organizations do to be effective in the immediate wake of a disaster, and that it's going to take two weeks to get the $1M in relief Yele's already earned from their SMS donation campaign to Haitians.
To be fair, Yele Haiti's president Hugh Locke spoke on many of these issues to us. Locke noted that Yele has people on the ground, that other NGOs came to Yele (and not the other way around), that the renter on the aforementioned office space couldn't afford donating it, that the directed funds for Wyclef's performance went to expenses (hold Wyclef's $25K fee), and that Yele paid money to Wyclef's television station to secure airtime against the potential of Yele being "pushed around."
As we've noted before—and it can't be stressed enough—Wyclef's been in Haiti, he's been on the ground helping, and he's definitely trying to help the cause. That said, the talking points Wyclef read off his BlackBerry sound like they came directly from Locke, and they're mostly vague obfuscations regarding some of their stateside financial organization issues, and whether or not Yele can help at the moment more than, say, UNICEF, the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders. These are organizations that have worked immediate disaster relief efforts, that are on the ground now in full force, and that already have the resources to handle both efforts in the wake of a disaster and the financial infrastructure required to do so.
Haiti's going to need help for a long time after this. Nobody has any questions as to the sincerity of Wyclef Jean's efforts, or that as a native Haitian, he could be well equipped to handle certain situations other organizations aren't. Yet, Yele's ties to Wyclef's commercial interests and questions about their financial structuring are clearly trumped by seasoned organizations who have experience in accepting and utilizing donations when they count the most, when Haiti's need for things like food, potable water, and medical care are absolutely crucial: right now.