Wyclef Jean's Hopes For Haiti

<b>Scott Pelley</b> On The Rock Star's Efforts To Help His Homeland

This story was first published on Jan. 11, 2009. It was updated on July 31, 2009.

To live the life of Wyclef Jean is to believe that almost anything is possible. Wyclef is a Grammy Award winning multimillionaire rock star who comes from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. He's one of thousands of Haitians who immigrate to the U.S. And many never return. But not Wyclef.

As 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley first reported in January, he goes back to Haiti often, using his personal wealth to help his impoverished country.

Wyclef's passion and determination have made him a hero to millions of Haitians.

Pelley got to see firsthand how they feel about Wyclef Jean when they visited Cite Soleil, one of the most infamous slums on Earth.



Cite Soleil is a sprawling slum by the bay of Port-au-Prince. Half a million people live there, many of them next to a garbage dump. The name means "Sun City," but despite its name, this is a breeding ground for disease and despair, gangs and violence.

"They know you're here," Pelley remarked, hearing the cheers. "Man, they are coming by the hundreds, by the thousands."

They're coming for Wyclef. When he's around, it's as if he's the only ray of hope in "Sun City."

"Yeah, they're not gonna give up. Yet. So we gonna get out and do a little walking," Wyclef told Pelley, as the crowd around them grew and grew.

They found themselves in the middle of a spontaneous homecoming for a Haitian icon who left the island nation nearly 30 years ago.

Wyclef Jean is one of the world's most recognizable stars, performing before sold-out audiences, selling more than 50 million records in a 20-year career. His music is an eclectic mix, rooted in his Haitian DNA. Known primarily as a hip hop artist, he has a gift for guitar that reminds many of Jimi Hendrix.

"I came from Haiti. English is not my first language. I came to the land of the free, the land of the opportunities. I made somethin' of myself," Wyclef told Pelley.

Asked what he thinks would have happened had he never left Haiti, he said, "I think about that all the time. I always think 'Why you, Clef? There's close to ten million people in that place. Why you?'"

He comes from a country both beautiful and destitute. The average Haitian lives on less than $300 a year. Half the people scratch out a meager living on the land. The others are packed into cities like the capital, Port-au-Prince. When 60 Minutes came with Wyclef, he was greeted like a head of state. To most Haitians, he's the living incarnation of their dream, someone who got out, struck it rich, but didn't forget where he came from.

"These kids, they could identify with me, 'cause they say, 'He looks like us, and he talks our language,'" he told Pelley.

In 2005, Wyclef created a charity that seems designed to attack all of Haiti's problems at once. It's called "Yele Haiti". He spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars of his own money to start it. And now, with donations and sponsors, it has an annual budget of $3 million.

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