Maria Elena Bello: A humanitarian at heart helping women in Haiti

Maria Elena Bello is an American actress and singer known for her appearances in movies such as ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’, ‘Permanent Midnight’, ‘A History of Violence’ and ‘Payback’. She is also known for her roles in television, such as ‘Dr. Anna Del Amico’ on the medical drama, ‘ER’.

Bello was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She grew up in a working-class Roman Catholic family with her Italian American father and Polish American mother. She graduated from Archbishop Carroll High and later attended Villanova University, majoring in political science. Maria intended to become a lawyer initially, but her exposure to acting during her senior year ultimately led to a life-altering career decision.

Bello Converts Acting To Activism in Haiti

January 12, 2012 marked the biennial anniversary of the earthquake that devastated many Haitian lives and threw the country into triage mode. Haitians woke up one day to their children screaming, their parents dying, their houses falling and their country destroyed, bringing desperation and sadness.

Bello’s work in Haiti began even before the earthquake, and now overshadows her acting career. She devotes significant time to advocating for the women of Haiti. She joins representatives from aid organizations around the world to effectively reduce the plight of women in Haiti and to raise their standard of life.

“I’m an activist before I’m an actor,” she says. “Even when I’m working, 80 hours of my week is geared toward Haiti.”  She estimates that she spends “a quarter of my time” in Haiti every year helping to advance the quality of life and rights of Haitian women. Bello was convinced that people had to know the extent of the loss and, in particular, what the women of Haiti needed. Over the last two years, she has become a voice for women throughout Haiti.

Bello’s Gifts to Haiti

Along with Aleda Frishman, Barbara Guillaume, and Alison Thompson, Bello founded WE ADVANCE, a charity organization which seeks to empower Haitian women to collaborate towards making healthcare a priority, and putting an end to gender-based violence within their communities.

Furthermore, WE ADVANCE strives to act as a centralised agency which advocates for the rights of women in Haiti. The organisation serves as a network, working to improve the status of Haitian women. The plight and issues Haitian women face, especially .those victimised by disaster are addressed by WE ADVANCE, through which urgent care is administered. 

At present, the WE ADVANCE is headquartered in a health care clinic and community outreach centre in Cité Soleil, Haiti. Today, WE ADVANCE works with and represents the voices of over 40 micro-organizations (such as Artists for Peace and Justice, Femmes en Democratie, and Give Love) working in the most desperate situations and communities in Haiti.

Maria and Kim Kardashian in Haiti

Maria recently went back to Haiti to continue her work with WE ADVANCE. This time, she took famed reality TV star Kim Kardashian with her. Kardashian’s name will help to spread the word about the cause and bring it more attention. The duo said  “We were brought together through a bizarre turn of events, and we discovered our mutual goal of empowering women using our own unique voices.”

Bello Named to Haiti Advisory Council

Maria has been recently named to a Haiti advisory council. The council, which includes Haitian President Michel Martelly, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus, has been established to help the country develop its economy. The board is made up of more than 30 leaders from different walks of life. A wonderful way to continue after 3 years of working in Haiti, Maria plans to focus on projects that help women and girls in Haiti as the country tries to recover and regain strength and stability.  Navito (TCC)

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