Tomorrow night, Coco is hosting an event at Milk Studios to present the US premier of her husband James Conran’s film, “Letters to Haiti,” which documents Coco’s experiences and philanthropic endeavors during her recent visit to Haiti. In anticipation of the premier, we set up a little Q&A with Coco to get even more details about her experiences.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Haiti, can you tell us a bit about some of your experiences while there?
I saw and experienced so much in the week we were down there. I was moved by how appreciative the children were for any sort of love or attention you could give them. Even though they have lost so much, everything in fact, they still smile and take care of one another. It was heartwarming to see that. I was also struck by what I did not see. Other than a few old women trying to sweep piles of rubble and dust, I didn’t see any significant clean-up efforts. I can remember just two occasions where I witnessed construction and rebuilding despite the fact the entire country lies in rubble. If you asked the average person, I suspect they would think that the worst of Haiti’s troubles are over - but they have only just begun.
How did you come up with the idea of “Letters to Haiti”?
I first saw the reports of the massive earthquake in Haiti right after it happened on the news and I remember I was sitting in an airport telling James we had to do something to help. I partnered up with a non-profit organization called LakayPAM (“my home”) to raise money for Haiti in New York. LakayPAM provide more than 500 orphans in Haiti with shelter, food, medical care and education. Despite our success with fundraising events in New York, I still felt very distant and disconnected from the people and the children I was trying to help and I realized what I really wanted was to actually see the children of Haiti. As I started gathering the toys I wanted to give to the children, I thought about what they really needed. It occurred to me that many of the orphans had lost so many people in their lives that what they probably needed most was the love of another human being. I decided to create a pen pal program to deliver these children messages of hope and love from other kids. I put the word out on my blog (oh-so-coco.tumblr.com) and letters immediately started flooding in from every corner of the globe.
Did you always have plans to make a documentary film or did this come up more naturally through your experiences?
Once we started to make our plans to go down there we knew we would want to share our experience with others. Haiti isn’t a place most people will get to see themselves so we enlisted the help of some good friends to help us document it. The first to join us was my good friend and fellow model Behati Prinsloo - She gladly signed on as our trip’s photographer. The next person we called was Gilbert Le, the filmmaker who created our beautiful wedding film in the summer of 2010. He and his cinematographer, Ben, were on board to meet us in New York and head down there. James ended up being the 3rd videographer and he also tackled the mammoth job of editing all the footage into a 25 minute film.
What would you like to see your charity accomplish next?
Im hopeful that our event and our film will keep people thinking about Haiti. I think we need these periodic reminders because with so much happening around the world, its so easy to be distracted. Haiti has to stay in our minds and hearts. If this trip proved one thing to me it’s that the children especially still need us, and as long as they do I want to try to help however I can.