Arcade Fire talks philanthropy in Texas

Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire brought their message of hope for Haiti to the University of Texas lecture Monday evening.

Montreal band lectures about their support for Haitian charity

Régine Chassagne of the band Arcade Fire performs in Montreal on Sept., 22, 2011. She said the band's commitment to Haiti is due to her Haitian roots. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Grammy-winning band Arcade Fire brought their message of hope for Haiti to the University of Texas lecture Monday evening.

After a gig at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex., Win Butler, Will Butler, Régine Chassagne and Marika Anthony-Shaw spoke at the university about their approach to philanthropy.

The band got involved with Haiti because of Chassagne’s Haitian background, Chassagne said at the lecture. Her family settled in Montreal after fleeing the dictatorship of François Duvalier in the 1960s.

After the band rose to fame and had some financial resources, they began to look at ways to give back, she said.

"I started thinking, how can I ignore this petition and that petition, how is this more important than this?" Chassagne said, quoted by the Daily Texan. "Well my family is Haiti, and Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, so hmm, that was pretty high on my list."

The band has donated more than $500,000 over past four years to Partners in Health, a Haitian charity that focuses on health care. Arcade Fire donates $1 of every concert ticket to the charity, said frontman Win Butler.

"In the [United] States and Canada, there’s a basic attitude that you should be able to do things yourself," Butler said. "You take for granted all the infrastructure we have. When you see a place that has no government or money for basic necessities, you know people shouldn’t die from not being able to get a tetanus shot in 2012."

Butler told the audience the band is skeptical of celebrity charities and well aware of stories about donations that never reach their intended source. But he said the band has looked into the efficacy of organizations it supports.

Members of the band said they were not discouraged by news reports about Haiti’s intractable poverty and corruption. They look to the long-term to see their effects of their advocacy.

"It’s not us helping the Haitians across a divide. It’s about making a common cause with these Haitians who respond to problems like any of us," Butler said. "What makes people healthy is more complicated than just giving them a pill."