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Rebuilding Haiti, Starting Today

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This is Part Three in a series of blog posts by Maria Bello, who is traveling with Artists For Peace And Justice in Haiti. Read Part One and Part Two of the series now.

It's almost impossible to explain what I have witnessed over the last week in Haiti. How to relay the depth of sorrow and devastation of the Haitian people and acknowledge the sheer beauty of a community coming together to help their fellow man?

Three days ago, at St. Damien's hospital, I held the hand of a 16-year-old boy as his leg was amputated with nothing more than local anesthesia. His screams of despair, I believe, were not only from the physical pain but from the knowledge that his life as he has known it would never be the same. Haiti was a hard place to survive before the earthquake. Now, with one leg, perhaps impossible. And there are thousands of men, women and children just like him. Missing arms, legs, paralyzed from spinal cord injuries, brain injuries... and the list goes on.

How will these people survive?

That night, sleeping on the ground under the Haitian moon with hundreds of doctors, nurses, soldiers and volunteers at the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division camp, we were awakened by what sounded like the song of angels. It was quiet at first, like one mother's mournful prayer in Creole for a lost child. And then her voice was joined by another and another and another, until the song they were singing turned into a choir of grieving voices.

We walked down the hill at sunrise to the displaced persons camp that now houses 40,000 people under nothing more than sheets. A half-mile long line wound its way around the camp with people waiting for the food from the 82nd Airborne to be distributed at 8 a.m. And the people sang. They sang to their God, we were told later, in praise and thanksgiving for their lives and strength and will to go on. Sang for their dead children and mothers and fathers and because they had nothing left, but they were alive. And Singing. And walking.

I left the next day to fly back to L.A. to a fundraiser we were throwing for Artists for Peace and Justice at Paul Haggis' house. Waiting on the tarmac in Port-au-Prince with a thousand people to try to get on a flight home, I was struck by the awesome beauty of one man's kindness to another.

There was Jonathan from search and rescue in Miami, Florida who had been in Haiti since the second day of the earthquake. He and his team had been sleeping in a field for a couple of hours a night, subsisting on power bars and working every waking hour to save lives. He told me that just yesterday they had pulled a 16-year-old girl and her two-month-old baby sister out of the rubble. He had tears in his eyes as he said that yes, they were alive and they fixed their physical wounds, but what now? What was this girl, who had lost her parents, her home, everything in the last week, supposed to do now?

And there was my dear friend, Dr. Reza Nabavian, from L.A., who accompanied us on this trip. He wept in my arms for all of the broken people he had operated on all week and because so many amputations and deaths could have been avoided with very simple equipment. His life, he said, will never be the same. He is now determined to go back and build a burn unit at St. Damien's so that in the future, lives can be saved.

There are so many stories. So many people from all over the world showing up with compassion and love and extending a hand to their fellow human beings. And we have to continue to extend a hand. We cannot let the aid to Haiti die after these first weeks of the disaster. The Haitian people want and deserve our help to rebuild their lives and their country.

There are many organizations that are making a real difference on the ground. Groups like ours who have been there and will continue to be there long after this tragedy. Please get involved. Stay involved. Don't give up. The Haitian people certainly have not.

Here's a bit of hope -- with the generosity of the Hollywood community, we raised $4.3 million at the fundraiser to rebuild Rick Frechette's 22 street schools.

We break ground on the first school TODAY.

Note: Artists for Peace and Justice are sending 100% of all donations to relief in Haiti until further notice.