Haiti Celebs

Reporter: Lynda Kinkade

We've had a week of heartbreaking images coming out of Haiti, in the wake of the country's most powerful earthquake in a century. Amongst the devastation: people miraculously pulled out alive after days trapped beneath the rubble. Also heart warming has been the global response, with aid agencies saying they've never seen anything like it before. We might like to criticise our celebrity culture as superficial, but as Lynda Kinkaid reports from Los Angeles, in times of crisis celebrities are amongst the agencies' biggest lifelines.

They're the pictures that have haunted the world since January 12, when a magnitude seven earthquake rocked the tiny, dirt poor, Caribbean island nation of Haiti. Described as the worst humanitarian disaster in decades, its left one and a half million homeless, with fears the death toll could rise as high as 200,000.

In the midst of the heartbreak, an unprecedented response: $1.2billion in aid, a sixth of it raised in private donations. Among the biggest givers - matching or even eclipsing donations from world banks - have been celebrities.

The world's highest paid model Gisele Bundchen pledged $1.5 million.

Sandra Bullock; $1 million.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; $1 million.

Madonna and Lance Armstrong; $250,000.

John Travolta sent his personal plane.

But arguably more valuable than reaching into their pockets, celebs have also been rallying their fans. At Sunday's Golden Globes they showed Haiti solidarity with ribbons."It's been a tough last week and we were happy to help from Australia" said Roger.

Roger Federer's tennis star studded Hit for Haiti match at the Australian Open raised over $200,000.

"Send anything you like, big or small, we're not proud. Peace and love. Peace and love. Peace and love." During Monday's Larry King Live telethon high profilers helped raise $9 million in two hours. We caught up with two outside the studio, Fergie and Paula Abdul.

"I think that we all feel that it's the least that we can do."I think anyone that is on the public stage is, they have a duty and a responsibility to give back."George Clooney, meanwhile, has been organising his third telethon after 9/11's A Tribute to Heroes and Tsunami Aid in 2005. To be broadcast tonight by eleven networks, Hope for Haiti will feature one hundred names from Bono to Beyonce performing in Los Angeles, New York and London.

The concept of charity is thousands of years old. But it took the devastating toll of two world wars to kick off modern relief organisations such as the Red Cross and UNICEF. Launched in Geneva in 1946, it didn't take long for UNICEF to reach out to Hollywood and its rollcall of goodwill ambassadors reads like a casting directors dream. "I think, perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicalisation of humanitarian aid, there'll be a humanisation of politics."

Audrey Hepburn's life was saved by humanitarian food drops into war-torn Holland in the Forties. She later repaid that generosity working with UNICEF, alongside a score of high profile ambassadors, including Danny Kaye, Peter Ustinov, Roger Moore, Vanessa Redgrave and Nicole Kidman. "The musicians completely put down their own egos to play together to do something because the whole vibe of that concert was that it was something bigger than the lot of us" said George Harrison.

In 1971 ex Beatle George Harrison pioneered the world's first large-scale charity benefit: The Concert For Bangladesh. Sales from tickets, an album and a film raised a quarter of a million dollars - $2.2 million in today's currency. "Give me a dollar and I swear to you, I swear to you, that dollar will translate into direct food into somebody's mouth" said Bob Geldof.

Fourteen years later Bob Geldof raised the bar with Live Aid, the first multi-venue rock benefit. Broadcast to 400 million in 60 countries, it raised $150 million pounds for Ethiopia. In 1985, Geldof did it again with the Live 8 concerts. A thousand musicians performed for a global television audience of three billion to raise awareness for the Make Poverty History campaign. G8 leaders pledged a doubling of African aid, but Geldof was criticised for staging a celebrity hijack of the campaign and ignoring African artists. "I think it's a huge statement about social media that for one person to have the ability to broadcast to as many people as a major media network, I think sort of signifies the turning of the tide."

Now social media promises to raise the charity bar higher still. Last year Hollywood A-lister Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to be the first to reach one million followers on Twitter. Kutcher now has four million Twitter followers. Together with wife Demi Moore, other celebrities and millions of social media-savvy consumers, they've been raising awareness and funds for Haiti - at a rate never previously witnessed by aid agencies according to UNICEF Australia spokesman Martin Thomas.

"Pretty much the tweeting community and the social media community was out there ahead of us already, by spreading the message of the disaster and then drawing on their understanding of Unicef responding, we were able to give them information to further force that or increase that … and really again, it just spread at an amazing speed. Much faster than we could ever do ourselves" says a Unicef spokesperson. "Look with I guess the use of celebrities from agencies like Unicef, theres always a calculated risk and to some extent everyone has an element of self interest but what we're finding is that celebrities are amazing in the time they contribute… they even donate out of their own pocket and to get a message out when it's critical quickly to millions and millions of people, it makes all the difference in the world." We can send in bandages but it's really money to big organisations that are going to change and make a difference. That's what we have to do" says Fergie."Hi I'm Paul Abdul and I'm calling for people to continue to donate money. For those of you have, god bless you. For those of you who haven't, it's the most humbling, greatest feeling, to give back. Call the Red Cross. Call UNICEF. Donate. Thank you."

UNICEF Australia Haiti Emergency Appeal

Tel: 1300 884 233

Website: www.unicef.org.au

Red Cross Australia Haiti Earthquake Appeal

Tel: 1800 811 700

Website: www.redcross.org.au