As perhaps the most famous Haitian alive, Jean quickly became the human face of the earthquake last month, and he parlayed that celebrity into millions of dollars in text donations to his personal charity, despite persistent reports that Yele Haiti is too poorly run to help and that Jean has a history of using it to divert charitable dollars to his business interests. He also managed to get Yele Haiti included on the list of six charities that George Clooney's Hope for Haiti Telethon, which raised $66 million in donations and pledges, would benefit—which put his tiny operation in league with the Red Cross and Oxfam and, according to many former Yele Haiti staffers we talked to, threatened to waste millions of dollars that could be better spent by more established organizations.
But while initial reports suggested that the money would be "evenly divided" among Yele Haiti, Partners in Health, Oxfam, the Red Cross, Unicef, and the U.N. World Food Program, Hope for Haiti announced today that Yele Haiti would get just $1 million of the first $35 million being disbursed. While Partners in Health is getting $8 million, for instance, to to "provide emergency medical assistance and supplies, strengthen the public health system, and provide rehabilitation, social support and economic assistance to survivors," Yele Haiti will get $1 million for the rather vague goal of "promot[ing] community mobilization in major underserved neighborhoods to coordinate aid delivery and support recovery efforts."
This is something along the lines of what we asked for last month, when we urged Jean to hand over the enormous sums he's raised to places like Partners in Health. The vast majority of the Hope for Haiti money is going to established organizations with a track record in disaster relief and recovery, and this makes us very happy.
Of course, Yele Haiti also raised an estimated $1 million a day in the wake of the earthquake directly through text donations, and there are signs that it's finding ways to spend it: It's moved its headquarters from a desk in the kitchen in Jean's Manhattan studio (for which the charity paid $30,000 in annual rent to Jean's production company) to a 40,000 square-foot floor of New York's Exxon Building. The New York Post reported today that Yele is currently in talks to take over the floor, but Gawker intern Sergio Hernandez stopped by today to confirm that it has already moved into the new digs. He was there to ask for the charity's 2008 tax return, which executive director Hugh Locke told reporters at a press conference last month had been filed with the IRS and which Yele is legally required to produced for inspection to anyone who asks for a copy. Locke told reporters last month that he'd e-mail the return to anyone who wanted it, but our repeated requests to Yele's publicist for a copy went unanswered. So we sent Hernandez to ask for it in person. They didn't let him past security.