Sean Penn has been a powerful activist for Haiti, helping to raise millions of dollars in aid — but he believes more money could be made.
Penn’s annual Help Haiti Home gala raised $6 million this year, but only a fraction of guests are supporting the cause: “There are a few extraordinary people that come, but then you have a room that is full mostly of people that are not giving anything,” he wrote in the latest issue of Haute Living.
Adding that the guests can surely afford to part with some money: “They eat, stargaze and watch the band but, honestly, I don’t think there’s a person in that room that can’t afford $25. I always wonder about that.”
Penn, 56, began his work in Haiti six years ago — taking a two-week trip to help distribute medication in the crippled nation. Those two-weeks suddenly became nine months: “[Someone told me,] ‘don’t stay more than three months in a disaster zone without taking a couple of weeks off’… I made the mistake of not taking that advice. I think I went a little kooky.”
The island nation captivated him: “[Once you] start to get a feel for the place, [you] know you’ll never really know the place. [You] know that you’re going to have to use your best instinct[s] about who to trust, who to learn from, who to question, who to challenge and be challenged by. It’s a long process, but we’ve had a lot of success.”
The “Milk” star founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization in 2010. It began as an emergency relief organization made up of just 32 Americans and has now expanded to nearly 200 mostly Haitian members.