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Donna Karan, Mary J. Blige, and Andre Harrell: For the Love of Haiti

Posted: 02/11/10 12:08 PM ET

"Think what it means not to have a home," Donna Karan told leading figures from the worlds of fashion, entertainment, media and finance. "Let's join together as a community to help the Haitians rebuild their communities. Dreams can come true."

Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Russell Simmons, Andre Harrell, Robert De Niro, Anna Wintour, Gayle King, Andre Balazs and Calvin Klein were among the 250 guests who turned out in force to show their support at the Feb. 8 benefit, Hope Help & Relief Haiti: An Evening for Humanity, hosted by Karan's Foundation, Urban Zen, Andre Harrell, Andre Balacz, and Mary J. Blige and the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN), co-founded by Blige and Steve Soute.

The evening, headlined by Mary J. Blige at the Urban Zen Center, with an after-party featuring Wyclef Jean at the Standard Hotel, raised money to meet the urgent need for tents in Haiti which will be distributed by three organizations with a strong history of commitment to effective service there -- Habitats for Humanity, Partners in Health, and Yelé Haiti.

Even the red carpet walked by the celebrities, media leaders, and designers (who turned out in the midst of preparations for Fashion Week) exemplified the theme, "tents today, homes tomorrow" with the donated tents right there on the red carpet. Housing six people, each tent contains a complete shelter survival kit, which includes stoves, water purification, and utensils. One million Haitians were left homeless by the recent calamity.

"Imagine arriving in a place where everyone you met has lost someone. The people waited for food, water, shelter, medical help and comfort, which didn't come for days," reported Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, a leading integrative physician, and Huffington Post blogger, who, with his surgeon wife, Dr. Pier Boutin, immediately flew to Haiti to provide desperately needed medical treatment with Partners in Health, a medical relief organization headed by Harvard doctor Paul Farmer, which has served Haiti for 25 years. PIH, one of the beneficiaries, "will be there for the next twenty-five," Hyman attested.

Hyman was moved by the spirit of the Haitian people who sang, wept, prayed and laughed even in the face of death. "The Haitians are not afraid of cold, or heat, or hunger. They fear only the rain, and the rain has come," said Hyman, encouraging attendees to donate tents.

The event featured both a silent auction of art works and a live auction hosted by Whoopi Goldberg for which participants bid on couturier shopping sprees with designer Oscar de La Renta or Carolina Herrera, a dinner for ten at the Standard Hotel, a champagne trip to Paris, donated by Moet Chandon, a package donated by Robert De Niro, and a retreat at Donna Karan's compound on Parrot Cay.

"Haiti is just a three hour plane ride from here. Think about how fortunate we are!" Mary J. Blige gave the shout out. Like a gospel priestess or rocking shaman-ess, she intoned, "It's not about us, it's about them. The Haitian people are going through it. Everything we do is for the love of Haiti." Her soul-wrenching performance brought the gathering to its feet as music, dancing, sorrow, joy and generosity fused into a communal celebration of Haiti and commitment to alleviate its suffering.

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, whose organization Yelé Haiti is a beneficiary, revealed that he's a descendent of the 19th century Haitian leader Toussaint l'Ouverture. Even as a child, when well-meaning organizations came offering rice, Jean recalls feeling, "I want more than the rice. I want the seeds, the fertilizer, the tractor so we don't have to depend upon others but can grow our own rice."

Beyond the immediate need, Hope Help & Relief Haiti, an initiative of Urban Zen, also aims to channel long-term support to the triad of Haiti-based organizations in order to support Haitians in rebuilding their community themselves.

"We all need to take responsibility for what happens in Haiti," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr. "My father believed that we would be judged by future generations by how we care about the least fortunate members of our world. All these extraordinary and resilient people ask is for the chance to help themselves. With our help, they can."

"There is a fierce determination by people with the resources, access and passion. We can humbly hope that our commitment will make a real difference," said Joanne Heyman, director of the Urban Zen Foundation.

Nearly 200 years ago poet William Wordsworth wrote these prophetic words to Toussaint l'Ouverture:

"Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
 Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
 There's not a breathing of the common wind
that will forget thee; thou hast great allies; 
Thy friends are exultations, agonies 
and love, and man's unconquerable mind."

For more information, please go to: http://www.hopehelpandreliefhaiti.org www.hopehelpandreliefhaiti.org or follow HHRH on Facebook and Twitter. You can buy anything from a t-shirt to a tent (or contribute any amount in between) here. For more contributions, partnership opportunities, and to volunteer, contact www.urbanzenfoundation.org

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