Why were you in Haiti?
I initially went to Haiti to serve as [First Lady Laura] Bush's advance representative in March of 2008. She was highlighting the work of an HIV/AIDS clinic named GHESKIO(The Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections), which is the first one in the world. I fell in love with GHESKIO and went back to try to figure out how to help them in any way I could, moving there in January of 2009.
What's it been like returning to the States and watching the coverage from abroad?
I try to not watch the coverage as much as possible. But I'm in touch with all of my friends who, I'm so proud to say, despite everything they've gone through and everything they lost, are reporting back to me with amazing stories of what they're doing to not only pull people from rubble, but to bring innovative, Haitian-created, Haitian-led solutions to the problems that they're currently facing.
You've been doing a lot of national television interviews. Is that strange for you?
The whole experience of being home is surreal. Those are moments that are especially surreal, but it's been interesting. I don't know how to describe being in the middle of a Haitian slum to being in the middle of New York City now.
What would you like Knoxvillians to know about Haiti?
Haiti's a beautiful country, full of incredibly dynamic, motivated, intelligent, and well-educated people, who are bringing unique solutions to their own problems that we need to be tying our relief and response efforts to.
What are you encouraging people to do to help?
I'm encouraging as many people as possible to give money at this point. In-kind donations, supplies will be need for the long term, but for right now, cash is the best thing to send unless you have a specific skill set that's requested from an on-the-ground organization. But I especially encourage people to give to our organization, GHESKIO Centers.
Do you have immediate plans to go back?
No. I feel like my resources and energy are best spent here... I lost everything. So I have no apartment, no car there anymore, not even clean underwear to my name there. And it's not something I'm going to be able to find there. So I'm pretty confident I can do more from here.
What do you miss most about Haiti?
My incredibly inspiring friends that I know are going lead the country into some wonderful new places as they move into long-term recovery.