Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sean Penn Hits it on the Head

Photo by John Carroll
Les Cayes, Haiti
July, 2010

(CBS, July 12, 2010)

Sean Penn Unrelenting with Haiti Relief Efforts
Six Months Post-Quake, Actor Still Works To Make a Difference

Six months after Haiti's earthquake, the numbers are still staggering.

Between 220000 and 330,000 died. Another 300,000 were injured. And about 1.5 million people are still are homeless as we head into hurricane season.

Before the quake, actor Sean Penn had never been to Haiti.

But he's been there almost full-time since January, building a relief organization that's helping tens of thousands survive.

Penn joined "The Early Show" exclusively from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Monday to share with viewers just what he's experienced in the last half year there.

Penn says the biggest issue he's seen when it comes to the relief efforts is the lack of coordination between international agencies and the Haitian government.

"So, what happens is that floods and floods of money come in when people see immediate trauma and the drama that goes along with that. And then there are agencies, big agencies that have a lot of time, sorting out the ways to best spend the money and have detailed capacity to do it," said Penn. "So, what happens is that you get six months down the line and those things that would be preventive have not been put in place for any legitimate measure."

Penn rushed to Haiti after the massive natural disaster that struck the small country, to help with immediate relief. He stayed to finish what he started.

As the days wore on for Haiti, relief began to trickle down to a stop. As the government moved on, so did the media, along with the throngs of people who had Haiti in the spotlight.

"So many questions and criticisms could have been answered," explained Penn. "People could understand what's going on here; they could understand the heart and courage of the Haitian people and the necessity for the coordination efforts that are still not happening, in anything close to an effective way. I think that the media has played an enormous part in the failures that are still going on today and the recovering here and relief operations."

Penn has been applauded by many, including those who may not agree with his politics. He's been described as a "Do-er, not a talker," by the Lieutenant General of the U.S. Southern Command, who also commended Penn's ability to break down the bureaucracy of the U.N., as well as take the leadership role Penn has shown in a tough situation.

Though there's no obligation for Penn to be making such in effort for Haiti's relief, he says there is inner turmoil that drives him day-to-day to continue his work in that country.

"In our case, we came down with the idea of spending two weeks and trying to help out, said Penn. "There's something that takes over and it's really an obligation because you see the strength of the people who have never experienced comfort, and the gifts that that can give to people like myself and to our country and culture. You see the enormous gaps."

Penn now finds himself among hundreds of people sharing the same belief that every little bit can make a difference. He feels the situation is only temporary, and that "it is fixable."

For Penn and his team, the work is far from over. He hopes that, by making a continuous effort, others will join in the fight to piece Haiti back together.

Penn said, "It remains to be seen whether or not the American people, the world community, are going to join together and maintain the kind of commitment that the United States military showed here and to do this completely rather than to do a cosmetic emergency response and then let a country that's been suffering for so long suffer that much longer."

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