Longform

Healing Haiti

Page 6 of 6

As the party winds down, Wilson and Aaron cut away from the pockets of conversation, getting a chance to chat together. Talk turns to Aaron's travels. He says he's leaving for Bluefields, Nicaragua, in a few weeks to look into coral reef conservation. That's exactly where Wilson was living when he contracted the parasite.

Wilson mentions that, if they'd be interested, Aaron and his brother can come to the set of The Office on Monday and hang out in his trailer. They can also watch them shoot the episode that will air after the Super Bowl.

Aaron, who never likes to plan, is hesitant to commit. Will is all but kicking Aaron in the shin before big brother finally accepts the invitation. Will immediately begins text-messaging his friends.


On the way back to his hotel from the W, Aaron's voice is gone. His throat is sore, his eyes are red, and he is shivering. Plenty of people wore wool sweaters to the luncheon while Aaron stood shaking in his T-shirt for hours. And he was so busy talking to people at the party that he never got a chance to eat.

Over a dinner of cheese cubes and crackers in the hotel concierge lounge that night, Aaron is pale and strains to talk. He doesn't like to think about it, but there are some serious drawbacks to his lifestyle. His health is one. Relationships are another.

"Even the most understanding girl in the world wants to be taken to the movies once or twice," Aaron says. "But I can't really do that. I don't have any money at all. And it's pretty hard to text someone 'I love you' from the middle of a field in Haiti."

He's also never too sure where his next meals might come from. But he doesn't worry much about that. "It somehow just works out," he says. For example, one day recently, Aaron had no food in his apartment. But just as his stomach was aching from hunger, he got a donation in the mail: organic cereals and whole grains. "I can't explain it; it's like I'll look around and it's a mini-famine up in the apartment. And then out of nowhere, somebody donates something. We can't exactly take a single box of cereal over to Haiti, so I don't feel bad about eating."

When he's not traveling the globe, he's making calls or shooting off emails for hours every day. If it's not deworming, it's the orphanages or the shelters. Or saving the rain forest. Or Clean World Movement. Or, now, the coral reef.

"So many people out there want to do good things," Valerie says. "So many people want to help make the world a better place. They just need someone to lead them and tell them what needs to be done. That's why the world needs someone like Aaron."

"I believe we're citizens of the world, not of a city or a county, but of the entire world," Wilson says. "And everyone can do more, sacrifice something. I know it sounds corny, but there really is a little bit of Aaron Jackson in all of us."

Rainn Wilson's event raised about $50,000, short of the almost $200,000 required to deworm the entire nation. But the donations are still enough to buy 2.5 million treatments for children in Haiti.

Two weeks after the event, Aaron's second appearance on Larry King Live aired on CNN. Aaron hopes that, with the exposure, he'll have reached the goal of 10 million treatments. Next year, he says, he'd like to raise 28 million.

That night, Aaron Jackson went to bed at a decent hour, on the 20th floor of the Renaissance Hotel, in a comfortable bed overlooking the Hollywood hills.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael J. Mooney