Wyclef Jean is pleading for people to "act now" to help victims of the devastating 7.0 Haitian earthquake, which officials feared could leave thousands dead.
"Haiti today faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country has ever experienced," the Haitian-American music star wrote on his blog. "I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight face catastrophe alone. We must act now."
Jean, who established the non-profit organization, Yele Haiti Foundation, in 2004 to provide scholarships to the country's impoverished children, is encouraging people to text "Yele" to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 (to be charged to cell phone bills) to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund, or to visit Yele.org and click "donate" to aid in the relief effort.
VIDEO: Watch Wyclef Jean discuss the earthquake on CNN
Those wanting to aid in relief efforts can also text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross. Donations to the Red Cross, which has already pledged $200,000 to assist those affected by the earthquake, can be made through the organization's new donation gift catalogue as well. The program allows people to designate their contributions to the charity of their choice with a personalized message.
"The Red Cross is always thinking of new ways to help out and this is a great new initiative that takes [donating] to a new level. A lot of times when you donate money to charities, you don't know where it's going to," Masi Oka, a Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet member, told TVGuide.com last week. "By having this online gift catalogue, you can select this disaster relief group or whatnot. You select exactly where you want to give and it's reassuring to know where your money is going."
Jean said he learned about the earthquake while on the phone with a friend in Haiti. "She says, 'I think an earthquake is coming.' And the phone goes off," Jean told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night. After 45 minutes, Jean said he got a text from his friend, who said buildings started collapsing around her.
The musician said he later got a text that said a rapper named Jimmy O, who is part of the Yele foundation and went to Haiti to do a mix tape, had died in the quake — and asked for verification. "I urge everyone who's listening right now that knows how great this kid is in Haiti — I need y'all to verify this information," he said. "It would be a terrible loss for us."
Jean also called on the 4 million members of the Haitian diaspora to step up for their countrymen. "My urgency right now is really a cry of freedom saying we really need a state of emergency, like right now," he said. "We just came from the hurricane and it seems like it's a disaster after disaster, but I think the Haitians that are in America now, we need to step up."