Jencarlos Canela is equal parts musician and humanitarian. As a spokesperson for the International Rescue Committee, Canela is passionate about helping children and supporting those in need. Glam spoke to him about his charitable involvement at a recent lunch for the IRC…
How did you get involved in this organization?
I’ve always had a passion for helping wherever and whenever and however I could. I have a great friend who works on the board of the IRC. They called me one day and said, “Look, we know about your passion and your desire to help. You travel and use your art to just reach out to people. How would you like to be a part of the team?” It’s just one of those things that clicked. I was exposed about four years ago to everything that the IRC does. They have a camp in Miami where they give shelter to refugees. It was Christmas Eve, and I went to this little event they had, and I saw a little girl opening up a present. Just to see that girl’s face. When she was opening up that present — it was just a little doll — but to her that doll was like everything. It was insane, and I got to be a part of it.
Is there any particular story that you’ve experienced or heard that’s moved you?
I started with my music when I was about six or seven years old. My first encounter with music ignited inside of me this flame of passion and love. I didn’t quite understand it at the time because I was way too young, but I knew I didn’t want to do anything in life without feeling that passion – that drive. The only other thing that drives me more than my music or makes me feel that passion is helping people. I just truly feel that concept of one love, one world, one religion – I think that the only way to make justice of that phrase is getting to know those around you, learning from those around you — that’s the only way you can really get to know yourself. Everyone wins when we help each other out. No story in particular, all of them have touched me. There’s so many, and thanks to my music, I’ve been able to travel all around the world and see what goes on in third world countries as well. It’s very touching and I’m glad I’m here.
What would your advice be for people who want to get involved who’ve never been active before?
I think that everyone should have a personal mission whether you’re with an organization or not. It’s not about “I want to help; let’s go to Africa.” There’s help needed all around you — it’s right now, right here in New York City, in L.A., in Miami — everywhere… If you see a little kid in the park that’s crying or you see anything. It’s not just you got to help someone who’s dying of starvation. It started with me by peer mediating in school, by becoming a part of the peer mediation council. I studied psychology for two years and that opened my mind up to so many things. It helped me a lot. Just starting off with the little things and wherever you see that help is needed.
For more information, visit http://www.rescue.org.