'American Idol' Kris Allen on Haiti: 'We saw a lot of hope'
Allen's trip to Haiti was brief but memorable. He was able to experience the work of hauling away rubble and still enjoy some sweet moments, like singing "Amazing Grace" to a group of Haitian children. He joined in a conference call with Kathy Calvin, the CEO of the United Nations Foundation, which is what took Kris to Haiti for this experience.
On the experience as a whole:
Kris: We saw a lot of heartbreak but we also saw a lot of hope ... The biggest shock for me was when we went by the palace in Haiti. It's a national icon and it was completely in devastation. This huge beautiful place had been completely demolished ... It was definitely the worst devastation that I've seen. When I went to South Africa that was really rough, but this was on a totally different scale.
On the hope and resiliency of the Haitian people:
Kathy: Interestingly, people have created their own living spaces and communities. There is a sense of progress. The challenge is you don't know how long people can live through that, in a dislocated environment. One interesting thing that has happened is the marketplace has come back into being. You see people selling fruits and vegetables. It's encouraging to see the basic elements of a working system come back into place.
Kris: The children were the most incredible thing. You can always see the hope in the kids' eyes. They don't exactly know what's going on, they kinda do, but they're just smiling and they're having a good time and I think that's the moments I like to grab onto. This one little kid wrapped a rubber band around a coke bottle and was strumming it and singing to me. They're making the most out of everything. We can take a lot out from how kids react when stuff like this happens. When you get to really hang out with the kids and play with them and see how excited they are to see you and hang out with you, it means so much.
Kris and Kathy went on to explain that the most important thing the Haitians need right now is shelter and sanitation facilities. The shelter is important because the rainy season in Haiti is almost upon them and people won't survive it in the tents where they are currently living. The sanitation is important because so far the destruction has avoided water-borne diseases like malaria but it's only a matter of time without a proper sanitation system in place.
The best thing anyone can do right now is to not forget Haiti and to donate money. Individuals cannot provide shelter for the millions of displaced Haitians, but if they all donated money, the United Nations could provide it.
Kris is joining the "American Idol" results show on Thursday night (Feb. 25) to perform "Let It Be." People will be able to download his song on iTunes, with all the proceeds going to benefit Haiti relief. Viewers will also be able to text in donations.
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