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Young community champion ready to save Haiti

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:26 p.m.
Soleil Laurent

At the age of 15, Soleil Laurent has been able to mobilize help and support for victims in Haiti after the crippling earthquake that rocked the Caribbean island last week.

The Haitian American high school student already had ties to Haiti even before the quake and her recent efforts have turned her into an overnight celebrity.

Her organization, Life for the World Inc., works to establish orphanages and schools around the world. Laurent sits on the board for the Maranatha Orphanage and School located in Port-au-Prince and makes annual trips to Haiti. Throughout the year, she raises funds for the orphanage that cares for 200 children.

She became involved in working with Maranatha through a client of her mother's, who is an accountant.

"When I heard about it, I saw this as a good opportunity to help my people," she said. "Being Haitian is beautiful, but every nationality has their own beauty and everyone should have pride for themselves."

Laurent's yearning to help Haiti grew even stronger when tragedy struck last Tuesday with the massive earthquake that has people scrambling to survive. With pictures splattered all over the media of collapsed buildings and injured people, Laurent has no idea about the status of Maranatha or of the children who live there.

"It ripped my heart out," she said. "What immediately came to my mind were the kids. I have no idea what's going on and I don't know if the kids are alive or dead. I had a couple of breakdowns, but you have to stay strong to make change."

Since the news about the earthquake, with the support of her parents, Laurent has established the collection of mountains of items to send to Haiti, including food, medicine, clothing and blankets.

A major drop-off point for donations has been Savior Faire Records in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where many Haitian immigrants have gathered to find information about loved ones and begin the road to recovery.

While getting donations from her school, family, friends and church, Laurent aims to teach people a lesson in the wake of the recent events.

"I keep telling people we are all one world and we have to help each other," she said, "And right now, Haiti needs our help."

Laurent said that she plans to go to Haiti in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, she continues to not only collect donations but also advocate the urgency to help Haiti.

Since word broke of her mass mobilization, buzz about her work has hit the airwaves on the local and national scope. But even when the cameras are off, Laurent remains humble. She said, "Fame is good, but my purpose is helping people. When I think of Haiti, I think of love. Everyone there has each other's back. It doesn't compare to anything else. I want to help as much as I can to rebuild the orphanage."

When Laurent is not working tireless hours for Haiti, she enjoys singing. At her high school, she sings in the choir and also sings professionally, donating 50 percent of her earnings from gigs to Haiti.

For more information about Life for the World, log onto www.lifefortheworld.com.