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Actress Fears for Safety of 2 Haitian Children

Posted January. 16, 2010 07:27,   


“Where are you? You face difficulties but you must overcome your mounting challenges. I hope to you soon.”

After news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti broke, Korean actress Ye Ji-won has been unable to sleep. She said she worries over two Haitian children she began sponsoring in March last year, when she visited the Caribbean nation along with other celebrities such as actor Cha In-pyo and his actress wife Shin Ae-ra as a member of the international child sponsorship organization Compassion.

Ye visited Compassion House in southern Seoul yesterday to ask the organization to confirm whether the two children were alive. The answer she received, however, was, “We’ve not heard any information from Haiti.”

Since then, she has prayed for Rhodes Stacey, 7, and Fredson Gerinae, 8, holding a picture of Stacey in a sky-blue dress and a letter from Gerinae in her hands.

When she arrived in the Haitian capital in March last year, she said she was struck by a desolate mountain. In Haiti, 80 percent of the population is jobless and lives on less than one U.S. dollar per day.

Ye found out that Haitians are extremely skinny, but that was not all. She witnessed barren land, dried grass and extremely skinny cows and dogs. Haitian children even ate cookies made of dried yellow dirt, butter and salt.

“I hugged a child at a church. She looked at me as if she were an 80-year-old lady. She reminded me of the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.’ I couldn’t just leave there after watching her eyes,” she said.

Since returning to Korea, the actress has sponsored two Haitian and three other children living in the Philippines and Kenya, sending 35,000 won (31 dollars) to each of them per month. Compassion’s Haitian branch used donations to buy food, clothes, medical supplies and educational support for children.

Ye said she has been touched by the growth of children, while sending and receiving letters and pictures every two or three months.

One letter from Gerinae said, “Hello. Ji-won. I’m living with my father since my mother was killed in a boat accident. Thank you for helping me to go to school. I have taken four tests after starting school. I’m really happy over getting good scores.”

One from Stacey read, “My father earns money by doing manual labor, but he has little work to do. I usually clean my home and bring water. I’m not good at studying. But I like singing songs.”

While reading again the letters she received last month, she was drawn to tears due to the fear that she might never hear from them again.

“Many people pay attention to their friends abroad only after a tragic accident claims lives of tens of thousands of people. If you frequently look around, you’ll realize you have many reasons to appreciate your life,” Ye said.