Maria Bello's call for Haiti diligence

Feb 24, 2010 at 9:49 a.m. ET

"These people are wounded in so many ways" Maria Bello says of the characters in her film The Yellow Handkerchief, but she just as easily could be speaking of her experiences volunteering in Haiti after the country's devastating earthquake.

Maria Bello and Kristen StewartYellow Handkerchief, starring Bello, Kristen Stewart and William Hurt, is a uniquely romantic film set in post-Katrina Louisiana. Stay with SheKnows for our February 25 debut of our Kristen Stewart Yellow Handkerchief interview.

In the meantime, however, SheKnows shares Bello's front-line view of her experiences in Haiti, where she volunteered for hundreds of hours after the earthquake that left the country in rubble.

Katrina and Haiti's earthquake

SheKnows: In The Yellow Handkerchief, you filmed in Louisiana literally weeks after Hurricane Katrina. What was it like filming there? Could you also talk about your recent rip to Haiti?

Maria Bello: There's a resilience there and a life force from the people of New Orleans. It was really inspiring, as well.

As you know, I've spent the last month in Haiti. There's that same feeling I have that people are strong -- strong people who are coming together to lend a hand and work their way back.

SheKnows: What brought you to Haiti?

Maria Bello: I've worked there for years with an organization we started called Artists for Peace and Justice. We work with a doctor and priest there, Father Rick Frechette, who built the first pediatric hospital for disabled children and built 22 street schools. He feeds 3,000 people a day. He's an amazing person.

SheKnows: You must have lost it when you heard about the earthquake. When you finally heard from Father Frechette, what did he say?

Maria Bello: The day after the earthquake happened, I called him and said, "What do you need?" He said, "Put on your work boots and come help me dig my people out."

I went down and saw the most devastating things you could ever imagine. Amputations with no anesthesia. Babies with no pain medication who have spinal cord injuries and burns. I just went back again last week and worked at a refugee camp for 75,000 people who are still living under sheets.

SheKnows: What is the greatest need? What most shocked you?

Mario Bello: There are no tents, and hurricane season is coming. Diseases have broken out. TB is rampant. I feel like we really have to keep an eye on it, or tens of thousands more people are going to die because of this. The media tends to...[pauses] It's sexy at the beginning and then [the coverage] dies down. But we have to keep our eyes on Haiti. It's our moral obligation to do so.

Read on for more about Haiti

Haiti: An underlying journey of despair
Haiti: How to help
Angelina Jolie visits Haiti