Ricky Jean Francois Skipped a Film Room Session To Bring Haiti Much Needed Aid

Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois came to the aid of a devastated Haiti at the suggestion of owner Daniel Synder.

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Complex Original

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Following their win over the Ravens, the Redskins returned to their practice facility Monday to watch game film. But Ricky Jean Francois and Pierre Garcon were not present.

That’s because Jean Francois got a text from Garcon asking if he would like to accompany him on a quick trip to Haiti, an idea first pitched by Redskins owner Dan Snyder in response to the devastation left by Hurricane Matthew.

The poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere was devastated by the category four cyclone that left over 1,000 people dead and countless homeless with damages that could easily run into the billions. But Jean Francois and Garcon, both of Haitian descent, decided to do something about it and boarded Snyder's private jet stocked with medical supplies. We spoke to Jean Francois, the Redskins’ veteran defensive lineman, about his eye-opening trip to Haiti with a little talk about his favorite celebration dance mixed in for fun.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Can you provide some background about your trip to Haiti and what you did?
It wasn’t really what we did, it was more what Dan Snyder did. Dan Snyder gave us a lot of supplies from our Redskins facilities; IVs, gauze, alcohols, and medical supplies. He really wanted to put a lot more on the plane but we thought what he gave us was enough for our trip. Dan Snyder lent his jet to take us to Haiti and I really appreciate him for doing that. He really didn’t have to do anything but he did. We unloaded everything got to talk to a lot of people while we were down their. The scenery at the airport was nothing but Blackhawks helicopters. They had big helicopters loading up with supplies to all throughout the country because when we got there they told us the the roads were all gone, damaged, and covered in debris from the hurricane. The helicopters flying, leaving every five minutes, delivering supplies, constantly flying over our heads. We got to go to the hospitals in the heart of Port au Prince, just seeing the scenery on what was going on, people going in and out, transporting bodies into one side of the building and the other. The bigger problem was doctors had to operate on all the bodies and had to do it all in very tight spaces trying to squeeze in between the beds. It was a very humbling experience of what was going on there.

Did you and Pierre decide to go on this trip or did Dan Snyder come up with the idea?
No, Dan Snyder actually sought us and asked us to do this. That was great to hear that your owner wants to help out guys of Haitian descent and provide us the transportation to drop off the supplies. He even dropped off supplies at the Bahamas, right now the Bahamas are going through some stuff as well. Dan Snyder was just helping out all around and I salute him for that.

People there are trying to do whatever they can, whether it’s selling water, chips, perfumes, and incense, they’re still out there grinding because at the end of the day, nobody will provide them the money to survive.

What compelled you to undertake these efforts?
One, I am of Haitian descent. Two, my father’s side of the family is still in Haiti but I couldn’t get a hold of them. But I really went there because if something like this happened to myself or even yourself, you would love and pray that a person, who doesn’t even know anything about you, would fly in to drop off supplies and give you encouraging words and to keep bringing yourself up. I wanted to do more than just dial the phone and donate $10-20. But what really touched the people in Haiti was having us show up in person and hand deliver the supplies they needed because you can give money any day, but having someone hand deliver something you don't get that any day and it’s special.

Did you get to go into and see the houses and the hospitals of the survivors?
We didn't get to see the houses because we couldn’t get around at the time being because there was so much going on. But just going to the hospital it was a crazy scene. What was crazy was the hospital looked like it could only hold about a hundred people, but it had over thousands of people and doctors were running around trying to find places to accommodate as many people as they could. The one thing that really got my attention and really touched my heart and hurt me was when I asked one of the assistants of the hospital, “What is the hardest decision that you have to make?” and they responded, “When there is a person who needs medical attention, but the hospital doesn’t have enough room or the medical equipment needed to help them and they have to not only turn down the person but their family.”

I know you’re a Florida native and live in Florida, so how do Haiti and Florida compare in terms of the result in terms of the result from the hurricane?
In Florida, because it’s a tourist spot, if it gets hit by a storm it’s going to be rebuilt in like two seconds, but when Haiti gets hit by a storm it's going to take years. Haiti was still rebuilding the country from the (2011) earthquake. They were putting up schools and different buildings up. The homes weren’t getting built like they should have been because the people of Haiti were just looking for something to cover their heads.

Are there any ways people can help support the ongoing work Haiti?
Pierre Garcon has a foundation and he is working a group. I’m just working with different organizations trying to help as much as I can. I’m also trying to work with Elvis Dumervil of the Baltimore Ravens and all the other Haitian players, to see how we can go about getting more supplies to the area. We really don’t care about the debit cards and credit cards because the people don’t need the money.  They really need the supplies, water, diapers, formula, clothes, and all the things we use every day are the things we need to get there.

How do you continue to support during the season and are you planning on taking future trips to Haiti?
I’ve been talking with Dan Snyder about how we can continue to get more supplies delivered to the country. I really want to do more hands on work, but I know i can’t because of the NFL season. Thankfully, I’m on the NFL platform that can help me get things over there and once the season ends, I’m going to get in contact with a few of the Haitian players and my dad and his family members in Haiti so that we can find different ways to do things faster than usual. 

How did this experience impact your life?
It was a very humbling experience. Just seeing people walking on the road with no shirt on and it is HOT. I’m in Virginia and its cool, but Haiti is around the equator belt and once you cross that line its going to be hot. People there are trying to do whatever they can, whether it’s selling water, chips, perfumes, and incense, they’re still out there grinding because at the end of the day, nobody will provide them the money to survive. As a Haitian, I know that we will always work to get stuff in our pockets to make sure we can take care of our loved ones. It’s not about having money and being able to spend it, but having money and being able to say we took care of our loved ones and put them before ourselves.

Last Question, with the NFL fining sack/touchdown celebrations, will we still continue to see your iconic Peanut Butter Jelly celebration dance?
Oh, I’m still gonna get that dance going. Roger Goodell shouldn’t be able to fine the Peanut Butter Jelly Dance, if he's gonna do that then he might as well go on Family Guy and take the fun out of everything. Everything we are doing is just fun. We are not trying to make the game lose its tradition and prestige, but we are just trying to have fun. Kids want to see what happens when I make a sack, when J.J. Watt make a sack, because that may be a dance that they make do when they end up playing the game. We just want to do it so the kids enjoy the sport. What we do in the sport now will impact what the kids do in the future. Everything we do it's going to trickle down, from professional to college, to high school to Pee Wee. It’s all about having fun, not about being serious and getting fined. I understand there are certain things that may be inappropriate, but the Peanut Butter Jelly Dance is never inappropriate. Is the NFL going to fine me for making a peanut butter jelly sandwich, too?

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