On Thursday, the same day former Senator John Edwards publicly admitted that he'd fathered a child in an extramarital affair, the former presidential candidate got to work with the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Steadfastly avoiding talk of his personal drama, Edwards spoke to MTV News about what he was doing on the ground in Port-au-Prince.
"I've been to Haiti before, and there's sort of a foundation of chaos to begin with," Edwards said of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. "They're wonderful people, but they struggle here day to day. Once the earthquake hit, it was like the last punch."
Edwards said he spent much of Friday (January 22) in a pediatric hospital in Port-au-Prince, trying to negotiate a way to transport 18 seriously injured patients to Miami. "I've got a hospital there ready to take them," he said.
"The thing [the earthquake] is most comparable to in my experience is Hurricane Katrina," Edwards continued. "But it's different because New Orleans didn't start in the condition that Haiti and Port-au-Prince did. These folks started in trouble and got slammed."
Some political commentators have said Edwards' work in Haiti is part of an effort to rehabilitate his own image in the wake of his admission. But his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, told the Charlotte Observer that it was a genuine extension of the work to end poverty, an issue that he emphasized in his 2008 presidential campaign. "Whatever the naysayers say, the truth is John actually cares about poverty issues," she said. "He's been doing work outside of this country where his errors in judgment don't have any bearing on work."
Edwards has spent much of the past year building homes in El Salvador with the Christian organization Homes for the Heart, and once the short-term emergencies are taken care of in Haiti, he said he hopes to put that experience to use rebuilding schools in the poorest areas of the city.
"This is not a one-week, two-week thing," he stressed. "These people are going to be in trouble for a long time."
And while the most immediate need for Haiti's recovery is money, Edwards thinks that young people will eventually be able to volunteer in the country too. "If they care enough to want to come here, we can find organizations to come with them," he said. "There's lots of work to be done."
Learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET, and visit HopeForHaitiNow.org or call (877) 99-HAITI to make a donation now.