Kris Allen Answers Questions About his Trip to Haiti

A tidbit from today’s press conference with Kris Allen:

Kris will perform the Beatles’ “Let it Be” on Thursday’s results show. His performance will be available for download on iTunes with proceeds going to Haiti relief.

Viewers will also be encouraged to donate during the broadcast.

Kris Allen and Kathy Calvin, CEO of the United Nations foundation took questions today from reporters about Kris’s recent trip to Haiti.

Kris said he made the trip expecting to encounter heartbreak, but instead found hope amongst the people of Haiti. So many people see a brighter future ahead for themselves and their children.

Right now, funds are urgently needed as Haiti enters the rainy season. The devastated nation has managed to avoid water-born diseases so far, but the rains could make the situation much worse. Short term needs right now are tents for shelter and latrines.

Added addition footage of Kris in Haiti after the JUMP…

Kris says that “It’s insane” how much destruction was caused, and that you can’t imagine it until you see it for yourself. One of the most shocking sights for Kris was seeing the Palace in ruins, “It looked like the Palace of Versailles had been completely demolished, ” he said.

Kris would love to go to go back to Haiti for a longer period of time, and made sure on this trip that he didn’t just walk around and look. He helped clear rubble, hand out food and water, and got people registered to work for cash.

He’s really looking forward to coming back to the Idol results show on Thursday, and is really happy “It’s not about me.”

“That feels really good” he said.

The important thing right now, both Kathy and Kris stressed, was the long-term commitment. The outpouring of money right after the earthquake, was phenomenal. But the longterm building is going to take a lot of resources. And, Kathy stressed, money is what’s needed most to fund the Haitian’s upcoming needs.

Asked about his next single, Kris said a decision on that has yet to be made.

*Call transcript*

“I want to thank Simon Fuller for giving me the opportunity to go out there and hopefully make a difference on what’s going on with Haiti”

Comparing his prior mission trips to his recent trip to Haiti, “They were all different, I’ve been to a lot of different places, but I did do something similar, because I went to Thailand right after the Tsunami, so I got to see a lot of destruction there, but it was kind of the same deal, there was a lot of happiness and hope in people’s eyes, so that was a great thing. I felt like I saw that in Haiti. You know, the destruction was a lot, and the devastation was a lot more in Haiti, because what happened in Haiti…until you go there, you can see all the pictures or whatever…but until you go there and actually see it, it is insane how much destruction was caused, I think it was kinda the same thing…people were hurt by it, everyone was affected by it, but I think you could see, especially the way the UN was helping and just like the smiles on the kids faces…they know that everything is going to be OK–it’s going to take a long time, but everything is going to be hopefully better than it was.”

A lasting memory that he’ll take away from his experience, “Katy was not able to go with me…I think there was a lot of lasting memories, but for me, it’s always the kids, I got to go into this women’s tent…it felt like a really safe place. They were taking care of their babies which were like from newborns to maybe two, or something like that…I got to sing a song for them, and hold a couple of babies…they seemed so happy…it was a really cool experience.” What song did he sing? “Amazing Grace”

What will his new single be? “There’s definitely some talk about what’s going to happen with the new single, but we don’t have anything set in stone.”

What will he be doing on the show Thursday, “I know for sure that I’m going to be singing a song, and it’s going to be an inspirational type of a thing, and hopefully people can really connect to it, and the performance is going to be sold on iTunes. There’s going to be a way you can text in and help the UN raise some funds for Haiti. I might be able to talk, but I don’t remember if that’s going to happen or not, but maybe so.”

What will he sing on Thursday, and how long will the segment be? “I’m actually going to sing “Let it Be” and I think the musical segment is going to be 2 1/2-3 minutes long, and there may be some more time where I get to talk, and Ryan gets to talk about the UN and what it’s done. So there may be a little bit of time, after that.

How will he feel about being back on the Idol stage?, “It’s nerve-wracking, but the thing about this, is that it’s for a completely different…it’s not about me…I think that feels really good. Every time that I was on that stage last year it was about me, and for this it’s not, and it feels like a really good thing to come back there for.”

How did the trip make him feel? Did anything come as a surprise or a shock? “There definitely was some shock. I think the biggest shock for me was…it was the palace in Haiti, and it’s kind of like a national icon kind of thing, and it was completely in devastation, it was this huge beautiful place, and it looked like the Palace of Versailles had been completely demolished. So, that was pretty crazy. There was definitely some shocking things…I mean there’s buildings all over the place down, people living in tiny little tents that are blazing hot, 6 or 7 to a family. It was a pretty rough experience for them.”

How did it affect him on a personal level? “When you see something like that, it definitely affects you…it makes you happy for what you have, but it also makes you want to do something to help those people. And I think it’s just kind of an innate human…when you see people hurting, you want to help them.”

Does he plan to go back in the future? “If I get some time, I would love to go back there and help for a longer period of time. We were only there for 9 or 10 hours, or something like that. I can spend a longer period of time and get my hands dirty.”

What was he able to do the short time he was there, “We went to a couple of different places, the first place was a camp that they set up with a lot of tents, and they were handing out some food, I got to help out with that, I got to hand out the different kinds of food they were giving out to the people. I got to be a part of a registration thing, where people where getting cards where they could get food, and there’s a cash reward program…I mean there’s a lot of jobs that were just destroyed and people are able to clear the rubble out for money during the day, and I got to help with that..that was hard work, I don’t know how they do it all day…that was definitely some hard work, and I got to do a couple other things, and just talk to the kids and play with them. It was nice for me to get to be involved. I didn’t want to go there and just walk around and look at it, I wanted to do something.”

Has his experiences from the past year made this trip different than his missionary trips? Is it even more humbling? “I wouldn’t say that it’s more humbling, because I felt like the stuff that I’d seen before was really humbling as well. It was definitely the worst devastation that I’ve seen, and so that was different. When I went to South Africa, and saw all the problems that they had there with the AIDS stuff…that was really rough, but this is on a totally different scale.”

What supplies are needed the most in Haiti? “The thing that, and Kathy touched on this, was shelter, because…and Kathy, you can talk about this..she knows more about this…”

Kathy: “Kris is absolutely right. Shelter. Over the next six weeks the UN is probably going to deliver up to 30, 000 tents and enough waterproof sheeting for a million people. They’ve got to build more substantial community centers that can withstand the tropical storms, and I say frankly, latrines. The biggest issue they’ve had is that they have not yet had an outbreak of water-born diseases whether it be dysentery or diarrhea or cholera or malaria, but as the rainy season comes, and some of the camps are actually in the flood plain itself, they’re going to have to move the people out of those…they have a huge logistical challenge ahead. This is something the UN is really good at, and they really know what the system needs to do, but they do need help on housing and sanitation facilities, pretty heavily. And it’s not the kind of thing where people can just send them. They really need the money, because, they have a really effective way of bringing in the stuff that’s absolutely needed and some stuff works in a rainy season and a hurricane area and other stuff doesn’t. While everybody wants to give, and give all of their assets, We really do need to remind people that money is the most effective way to do it, and giving to the UN is the surest way to give it to the people who need it the most.”

Has Kris been watching American Idol? “No, not completely. I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve seen a couple of people, but nobody…I’ll pay attention more when I meet them on Thursday.”

Does he have advice for them? “Just go out and do your best, That’s a pretty general thing to say, but, just go out and do what you know how to do.”

Has he noticed anything in general about the cast that’s different? “Not really, I’d like to say that I’ve seen a lot of the show, but I really haven’t so…but nobody is going to be like Season 8!” (chuckle)

At this point, the moderator reminds everybody to ask questions about Thursday’s show and Kris’s trip to Haiti.

Was it important for Kris to do something hands on? “I was actually going to do the telethon, and then I was walking into the offices at 19 and Simon Fuller walked up to me and asked ‘How would you feel about going to Haiti’. And I was, like, “That sounds way better! And so, I owe all this to him, and I was able to go, and actually do something…not to…that thing raised so much money and was really moving as well, but to get to go there and be a part and talk to the Haitians and talk to the UN and see all what they were doing was a great thing.”

What would he say to his fans to encourage them to give to the Haiti relief fund? “That’s the thing about Haiti, there was so much money given at first, but this is going to last, and Kathy, you can talk about this too…this thing is not going away. They need so much help right now. And when I say help, I say they need a lot of money right now. And the UN is doing everything they can right now. Kathy if you want to talk more about it, that would be awesome.”

Kathy: “You raise such a good question, because the outpouring of compassion and giving at the beginning through the American Red Cross and everything was phenomenal, and impressive and empowering but the challenge in all of these situations is, the big ticket item is the long-term rebuilding and recovery. We need to keep people focused on that, and that’s actually, what Americans are really good at, is helping countries build back and become better than they were. This is a country who is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and one of the poorest in the world–8 million people in a very small space. It’s a situation where almost all the damage was done in areas where so many of the people lived. There are some real big challenges going forward and it’s right in our backyard, and I think everybody should want to help out.”

What is the morale like in Haiti? “We were actually talking to one of the Haitians there that was translating for us, and I think it’s a little split, a lot of people have been really hurt, and have lost most of their family, have lost a lot of their friends, have lost their home–no one’s really staying in a home right now–I think there’s a lot of people who feel like it’s not going to turn around. But there is a whole bunch of people that believe in what’s going on and believe in what the UN is doing, and all the help that they’ve been given and I think that it’s up to the Haitians. We’re there to help them, but I feel like they want it to be a lot better…I think the morale for the most part is pretty good, considering what’s happened to them.”

Kathy: “There was a moment when people thought there would be serious violence in the streets, and if anything, this country has kept its cool, far better than anyone has expected, and it’s been really impressive and you see people really digging in. The fear is mothers with brand new babies and the length of time it’s going to take for hospitals to get back up and running, and that we have a nation with a large number of amputees now, so there’s systemic problems that make it challenging. But Kris is right, we just saw such commitment by the people and gratitude that they weren’t alone, and that others were trying to help them…everybody that can watch on Thursday…it would be greatly appreciated.”

How would you describe conditions in Haiti, are things improving at all? Kathy: “From the UN Foundation who went in during the very first days after the earthquake, and certainly the folks from the UN who have been there the entire time, there is big improvement, in that people now have found almost all of the people who have died in the quake, and we’ve gotten people into hospitals. Interestingly, people have created their own living spaces and communities. There is a sense of progress. I think the challenge is for people…you just don’t know how long people can live through that kind of dislocated environment. One really interesting thing that has happened is that within the last few weeks, the marketplace has come back into place, you see people selling fruits and vegetables from the fields and that’s exciting to see–an economy coming back. People lost a lot of money and lost the ability to make money, but once there’s a market, you know people will find ways to restore the basic elements of a working system, so I think there’s important progress on things that need to be put in place. The UN is in there for the long hall, and that’s actually something really important that people wanted to hear. Kris even asked, ‘You guys are going to stay here, right?’ (chuckle) And, they’re committed–they were in here for the long haul before, and they’re in here for the long haul now, and I think President Clinton has made it very clear that his role as the special envoy is to continue until we really see Haiti back on its feet.”

What was it like interacting with the kids? “That was the most incredible thing, and it always is. I’ve done this before and you can always see the hope in kids’ eyes, ’cause they don’t exactly know what’s going on, but some of them…they’re smiling and having a good time, and I think those are the moments that I like to grab onto. I got to hang out with some kids and some little ones. This little kid was playing with a coke bottle, he wrapped a rubber band around the coke bottle and started singing to me, and playing it at the same time. They’re just…they’re making the most out of everything, I think. We can take a lot out from how kids react when stuff like this happens. When I really get to hang out with the kids and play with them and see how they are to see you and to hang out with you for a second…it means so much, you know?”

He learned some Creole? “Uhhh…I tried (laughter)”

UN Haiti B-Roll

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