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Matt Damon News Column
Haiti visit continues, OneXOne
  • Matt, Wyclef Jean and Frank McKenna continued their tour of devastated Haiti on Sunday. Reports are from Associated Press, The Star, Miami Herald, Ottawa Citizen and the Telegraph Journal. Photos are from Yahoo and The London Paper.

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    Cries of adulation — and hunger — followed Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean and actor Matt Damon as they toured flood-ravaged Gonaives on Sunday to call attention to widespread suffering in the marooned city.

    Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike submerged the Haitian city and cut off roadways. Where waters have receded, streets remain a stinking mud bath and homes are carpeted with muck and encrusted pots, pans and laundry.

    "I'm speechless, I can't believe it," said Damon, looking down from a U.N. helicopter at people living on the rooftops of flooded homes.

    The four-hour visit passed in a blur of stenches, colors and noise. A man on a bicycle tried to keep up with Damon and Jean's truck, shouting, "I love you, Wyclef." Jean raised his hand, but couldn't smile back.

    Damon and Jean waded through knee-deep floodwaters and climbed a stage outside the Gonaives cathedral, where 500 people have taken refuge in the choir gallery.

    The pair did not go into the cathedral, but Jean sang for a few minutes to a crowd outside. When he later tried to leave, people swept him into the streets. Admirers, some asking for money, clung to U.N. trucks as they drove away.

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    Haiti-born musician Wyclef Jean and Hollywood actor Matt Damon came to see the devastation from three recent storms and called on the international community to respond to the United Nations' appeal for $108 million in emergency aid. Damon said that as a native of Boston and resident of Miami, both with huge Haitian communities, he felt the need to become involved in the initiative to help the country.

    "This country desperately needs help now," Damon said last night, after meeting the country's prime minister, Michèle Pierre-Louis.

    "She said to us: the people of Haiti deserved to be helped. But not just charity. We want a hand up, and not a hand out," he said.

    "People haven't eaten for days; communities are completely flooded. Bridges are washed out. There are reports of bodies floating in the rivers and some communities haven't even been reached yet," said McKenna. "It's heartbreaking for there to be these places that have been deeply effected, but have no capacity to deal with their problems."

    Joey Adler, founder of OneXOne, which raises money for groups helping children in need worldwide, described the situation in a cellphone interview from Gonaives, a city north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

    "It's hopeless," she said from the back of a truck driving through the city's flooded streets. "There's more hope in Rwanda than here. This is absolutely devastating."

    "As an NGO here, all you're doing is putting bandages on cancer but we still have to save lives today," she said. "This is devastation on top of a crisis."

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    Now an executive with TD Bank, McKenna flew to Haiti on Saturday in his role as chairman of OneXOne, a children's relief organization based in Canada. He was accompanied on the trip by actor Matt Damon, Haitian-American rapper Wyclef Jean and a film crew from the CBS news program 60 Minutes.

    Even in impoverished African villages, Frank McKenna has never witnessed heartbreak like that in Haiti.

    "I have been in some awfully poor places, but I have never seen anything as poor or as devastating,'' the former New Brunswick premier said Sunday from hurricane-ravaged Port-au-Prince. "People are walking through the streets in water hip deep and clinging to roofs. Even in the best of circumstances, Haiti is the most dysfunctional and poorest place in the Western Hemisphere. But there is total devastation now."

    Canada's former ambassador to the United States, McKenna is impressed by the earnestness shown by Damon and Jean. The Academy Award-winning actor is an ambassador to OneXOne, while the Grammy-winning Jean was born in Haiti and runs an aid group called Yele Haiti as part of his own foundation. OneXOne and Yele Haiti combine their efforts.

    "These two guys are extraordinary,'' McKenna said. "Jean is their hope and their salvation. People swarm him, reach out to try to touch him. It is very moving."

    [McKenna on Wyclef Jean]

    "The crowds swarm him. He is like the messiah here to them. It's very moving to watch," said McKenna. "These two guys – Matt and Wyclef – they're extraordinary. Their interest and their giving of themselves, it's humbling to watch."

    "Right now, all of us just want to go home and give our kids a hug,'' he said on Sunday evening. "This is very, very humbling."

  • For the many people commenting on other sites that Matt should be in Texas, supporting American hurricane relief efforts, here's a simple response from Frank McKenna:

    "With the focus being on Texas, we don't want people to forget about Haiti," said Frank McKenna, the current chair of OneXOne and Canada's former ambassador to the United States. "They don't have the infrastructure and they don't have the resources to deal with it. They're just overwhelmed."

  • An interview with Matt and Wyclef (via phone) at CNN is available at the CNN site, YouTube or Yahoo. A separate video with photos of the devastation in Haiti (including some disturbing imagery), is at YouTube.

  • Some belated OneXOne coverage: A video from the event is at CTV; a red carpet interview with Matt from dose.ca is at YouTube; and other videos from dose.ca at YouTube are with Joel McHale and Joelle Adler - quotes are below. There's also a fun video at YouTube with Matt, Marc Joubert and Joel McHale from AndPop.

    Joel McHale on Matt
    McHale: If there’s anybody in the world that gets the issues it will be him. He is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. And terribly compassionate.

    Joelle Adler
    Adler: We’re very lucky to have him because with Matt it’s about the cause 100%. He’s a pure, pure, pure philanthropist.

    Marc Joubert on Matt
    Joubert: Getting it means that he’s not here because it looks good on his resume. He’s here because he wants to make a difference. He’s willing to go to Africa or to third world countries and get his hands dirty and play a part in the big initiatives over there.

  • From an interview with Jeffrey Sachs at the Globe and Mail:

    The idea that climate change is man-made has reached everywhere in the world but three places: the Oval Office, Alaska and the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Then along come Bono, Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, who are not scientists, but they are very clever people. And when they immerse themselves in these areas of proven results and practices – like Bono becoming an expert on what it means to treat people with AIDS or Matt bringing water to poor villages – they are not investing the science or testing the technology, but with a lot of effort, heart and talent they are putting it all out to the public in a way that the public will not get from the reports that I would read.
  • 11 comments or Leave a comment
    From: (Anonymous) Date: September 15th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC) (Link)


    I read a comment about Matt on one of the youtube videos once that simply said, "Matt Damon basically wins at life."

    So true. I

    I was saddened but not particularly suprised that you had to disable comments after Matt's remarks on Sarah Palin. I'm sorry about the vileness expressed by some in our country who let politcs grind away their humanity. But such people are always attacking the genuinely good, so to be their enemy is a badge of honor. God bless and God's speed, Matt.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: September 15th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Matt

    Thanks for your comments Paula.

    There's still quite a few negative posts around, so comments are currently being monitored (except for LJ friends).
    From: (Anonymous) Date: September 18th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Matt

    Aye! I don't waste my time with such people. It's a sad fact that, even in democratic nations, there is a substantial jingoistic and intolerant faction that takes any criticism of a country's (or political party's) leaders as akin to treason. To be despised by them is indeed a badge of honor. Plus, I also consider the high potential for jealousy among these people for someone who is successful, compassionate, intelligent, and attractive. Matt could easily handles such cretins, so I wouldn't worry to much.

    BTW, does anyone here know if The Human Factor is still slated to start filming in February? Or will Freeman's injury delay it?
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: September 19th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Matt

    Matt said from interviews last weekend (and posted on the site) that Human Factor will start in early February in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: September 16th, 2008 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

    To Khads


    I'm sorry I can't respond to your message via LJ - my reply was blocked due to your privacy options set-up.

    Thanks very much for writing to me - glad you know you're well, had a good time (despite the very long wait) and got a lovely photo with Matt to show for it!

    Please post your story as a post on the site - if you want to. Other people will love to read it.

    All the best,

    From: (Anonymous) Date: September 16th, 2008 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
    I'm very impressed with Matt's desire to help. I was also GOBSMACKED to see Frank McKenna in the pictures. I'm Canadian and from New Brunswick; he was our premier. I've met the man and feel very proud that one of our own is there helping.

    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: September 16th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC) (Link)


    Gordon McKenna is also the Chairman of OneXOne, and supportive with the financial aspects of the charity.

    He's been very involved, and helped gain a lot of Canadian press from the Haiti visit.
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: September 16th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)

    TV alert

    From the Globe & Mail (but it doesn't seem to appear in CTV's program listing):

    eTalk Special: Matt Damon: OneXOneStar!, 9 p.m.The kids are not all right. Not all the kids, anyway, as tonight's three picks show. Matt Damon, father to three girls, the youngest just a month old, talks about putting things right for impoverished kids around the world as front man for TIFF's annual fundraising gala for charitable children's foundation OneXOne. For more on Damon the actor, screenwriter and producer, Biography (CITY-TV, 8 p.m.) has an hour devoted to the Bourne star.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: September 16th, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

    children in hatti beeing helped

    ther is currently a man by the name of davis zachary that treats 900 to 1000 people every week in hatti for starvation he has helped save many many lives him ans his family live their and strugle every mo to keep the clinic open please let me know how to get this man some help tomjjett@hotmail.com
    From: sunnysanstar Date: September 16th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
    Joel McHale sure is saying a lot of nice things about Matt--he must be trying to get him on The Soup. That's the way that guy works. Keep it up, Joel, it would make Matt all the more cooler. :D
    loganx2 From: loganx2 Date: September 16th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

    America's favorite people

    I dont know if this has been posted or if it is ok to post but...

    Matt is one of the choices for Parades "america's favorite people". You can vote now.

    11 comments or Leave a comment