By Brandy Reynolds on
Christopher Meloni plays one of the toughest cops on TV in the hit TV series Law and Order.
As you’ll read in this interview, he learned that helping those in need and traveling to Haiti with Smile Train – an organization that helps children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts, many of whom cannot eat or speak properly, and empowers local doctors in developing countries by teaching them to repair cleft lips and palates – led him and his wife to develop a gut wrenching strength in order to be advocates for a number of charities.
In talking with Christopher, I realized that he wants to help those in need; he has a very kind heart and he also has his hand right on the pulse of some major issues in our world. This is a man who really cares about the pained, impoverished and oppressed souls of the world.
Why do you support Smile Train?
It’s an exceedingly well run organization; every dollar that’s given literally goes towards the surgeries. The organization is a very simple clean charity that appeals to my sense of order. A person donates $250 and the results are immediate. It doesn’t have to go through a bureaucratic hand, it’s not something that helps with a bigger logistical problem – it’s just very clean and specific and the problem will be fixed.
What is the character and aura of a child who has just had a successful surgery?
The transformation is so extreme that the kids are in shock. They’ve gone through their lives being teased or ostracized or looked at as different. There’s a deeper scar tissue than what you get on the outside. So I think that it’s pretty overwhelming and it’s going to take them a little while to acclimatize themselves. The parents are different stories. Their dreams and wishes have come true and they are the ones that express what the child is feeling. It takes longer for the child to download all that’s happened but the parents get it right away; it’s immediate and very deep.
This is not just a cosmetic surgery. We were in Haiti and the doctors examined an infant a couple months old. They could not operate on that particular child because she was malnourished. The reason she was malnourished is because the cleft was so bad that the baby couldn’t suckle. So the milk would run out of the infants’ mouth. You can really save lives with these operations.
How can others get started in helping out?
Reach out, educate yourself on the organization, and see if it is something you dig and if it appeals to you.
This is not me being a shield for Smile Train, but about me lending my voice to a sense of community that we all have within us at our disposal. Do the research, what appeals to you, what makes you feel good and connected to whatever cause it may be. Whether it be building homes for homeless people or helping out old people. Whatever it is, research it.
Do you think Hollywood is doing a good job at publicizing the issue or can more be done?
I don’t think they’re doing a good or bad job, but I will say I haven’t seen a movie yet in which [cleft palates] were in the forefront… and maybe that’s up to me. Right now I’m kind of working on something with the owner of Smile Train, so we’ll see.
What did you learn on your trip to Haiti? What did you get out of it?
It is surprising if you give of yourself – whether it be your time, money, celebrity – what you get back in return… it’s overwhelming. It was an education as to the problems and chaos of Haiti. It’s the poorest country in the western hemisphere and it’s pretty much at our doorstep.
How do we fix it? I don’t have the answer. To see true poverty like that… it’s like I told my wife after we took a tour of the ghetto city Solae. We were sitting in our hotel room, just numbed silent, and I said to her “you have to be mentally tough to do this kind of work”. It really stretches you as a human being.
Will any of your up and coming work support the charities you support?
Well I am working with the president of Smile Train – Brian Mullaney – on a cleft palate centric story.
Why did you decide to get involved in charity work?
I spent so much time becoming an actor, having financial freedom frees up the obsession a little bit and it opens one up to the wider aspects of life. I’ve been given so much that I ask myself, “How can I give back?”
What would you like to see changed about the world?
The biggest problem facing us right now is the environment. Also, I think people need the tools to help themselves, as opposed to loans. Maybe the good that will come out of this recession will be more connection in moral community.
Look To The Stars would like to thank Christopher Meloni for taking the time to talk to us.
Copyright © 2009 Look to the Stars