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'Heroes' actor searching for parents after earthquake

By Jo Piazza, Special to CNN
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'Unite to help Haiti'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jimmy Jean-Louis is looking for elderly parents after earthquake
  • "Heroes" actor was born in Petionville, Haiti
  • He is also founder of nonprofit educational organization Hollywood Unites for Haiti
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(CNN) -- Haitian native and "Heroes" cast member Jimmy Jean-Louis was searching for his elderly parents in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon after a powerful earthquake struck the nation. Jean-Louis learned that a house he had grown up in collapsed, killing several of his relatives.

"I have not slept yet. The second house that I grew up in was down, and some relatives have died, from what I have been told," Jean-Louis said Wednesday. "I haven't been able to reach my parents. I have heard that they are OK, but I do not know what is going on around them."

Jean-Louis was born in Petionville, Haiti, where he grew up without electricity or running water. He moved to Paris, France, when he was 12 to pursue a modeling career and supported his parents by sending money home since he started acting nearly 20 years ago.

He is the founder of Hollywood Unites for Haiti, a nonprofit organization whose original mission was to provide sports and cultural education to underprivileged youth on the island. The group is mobilizing for disaster relief after a magnitude-7 earthquake struck Tuesday.

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The actor heard about the quake moments after the news broke. For several hours, he was unable to get in touch with anyone on the ground in Haiti. Late Tuesday, he reached a friend who is the local director of Hollywood Unites for Haiti.

"He was stuck in the chaos, and he was supposed to give me complete details about what was going on on the ground and with my family, but all he could say was that the house was down and that some people from the house died," Jean-Louis said. "I'm trying everyone on their cell phones and on their house phones, my parents' friends and the people in their neighborhood, and I have been unable to speak with one person who is close to them."

Jean-Louis, who is best known as "The Haitian" on the NBC series "Heroes," returned from Haiti only a couple of weeks ago after spending the holidays with his parents. He was planning to return this month but will now be traveling much sooner to provide relief aid.

"I am going to try to get in, but I am going to try to understand the situation first to see how I can best help," Jean-Louis said. "The plan is to at some point visit, and right now, I am trying to be as productive as I can be here."

Jean-Louis and Hollywood Unites for Haiti are encouraging people looking to help to send money instead of goods at the moment.

"People should understand that sending donations of items and goods will be difficult right now because we will be bombarded and have no way to distribute them," Jean-Louis said.

"I don't think people have any idea how terrible this is because of the circumstances on the ground in Haiti and the lack of the infrastructure. There are no roads, and it is going to be extremely difficult for help to reach people."