Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.


Results, not intentions

Q: Should we admire Haitian singer Wyclef Jean for his charitable work even if it turns out that some of the money raised by his foundation, Yele Haiti, has been spent in questionable ways? How often do successful, high-profile people disappoint their admirers or lose their trust? And is that kind of trust be misguided in the first place?

Wyclef Jean may have considerable talent as an entertainer, but this is a different skill set entirely from being a non-profit executive of a charity doing relief work. If he wants to help the people of Haiti, he needs to keep his "day job" as a musician and allow the Red Cross and UNICEF to do what they do best.

At a press conference recently, a tearful Jean gave his opinion that Port Au Prince should be evacuated and that 2 million Haitians should simply go live in another country. He even vowed to use his persuasive power over the people of Haiti to convince them to leave.This opinion was offered without any planning or coordination on his part. His solution is creative, but not likely.

My organization, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, is involved in international humanitarian work in Vietnam, through Project RENEW. But instead of "reinventing the wheel," we work with the local government to provide ordnance removal, medical help and income-generation assistance to the victims of land mines.

Our role is to do what we do best: raising awareness and funds.The Project Renew office, staffed by Vietnamese people, works in the community to give aid where it is needed the most. This combination of working to our individual strengths has been enormously beneficial to the people of Vietnam. (For more information, visit www.vvmf.org.)

Should we admire Wycliff Jean because he is trying to help, even if he is shown to have abused the trust placed in him by misusing his organization's funds? I'm sure that investigations will uncover the truth about how his charity spends its money.

In the meantime, Jean should stick to what he is good at. He can help his country by using his celebrity status to build awareness. He can use his musical talents to raise money in a benefit concert -- but he should turn those funds over to an agency with the expertise to provide quick, efficient relief to the people of Haiti.

By Jan Scruggs  |  January 21, 2010; 12:01 AM ET  | Category:  giving Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The issues you accuse Wyclef Jean are also issues that both the Red Cross and United Way have been guilty of in the past. Soo following your logic we in fact should not trust those organizations with our funds.

Posted by: ziprider | January 23, 2010 5:40 PM
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