Sean Penn

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The shortcomings of celebrities as humanitarian heroes | 

Secretary-General Meets Actor and Humanitarian Sean Penn at Haiti IDP Camp
Secretary-General Meets Actor and Humanitarian Sean Penn at Haiti IDP Camp
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Actor Sean Penn transformed into heroic aid worker Sean Penn in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. His brash style and celebrity persona conspired to give him quick access to big players and media. In some cases it worked well. The Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO) set up shop quickly in the aftermath, Penn declared he was not leaving, he won the respect of many in the aid community and he assumed leadership of a displacement camp.

The same things that worked for Penn worked against him, says Jonathan Katz in Gawker. He is an AP reporter who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake and stuck around after to track the response.

A doctor at a J/P HRO-run clinic above the Pétionville Club golf course diagnosed a young boy with diphtheria. The fifteen year old, Oriel, arrived at a time when Penn was visiting. The actor sprung into action to save the boy’s life and respond to a potential outbreak.  He set out to get a dose of diphtheria antitoxin (DAT) from a warehouse run by the WHO and the Haitian ministry of health. He was able to get the DAT, despite the warehouse having been already closed.
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A few (sour) views on the NYT’s celebration of Sean Penn, Haiti relief worker | 

Flickr, danboarder

Sean Penn

For those of you who read the NYTimes magazine story about Sean Penn’s relief work in Haiti, here are a few thoughts on this high-profile DIY foreign aid operation from Tom Murphy at A View From The Cave:

It is good to hear Penn admit that he had no idea what he was doing for the first six months. However, that means that he could have been making things worse (emphasis on could)…. He was never going to work as a part of a traditional NGO and the article makes it seem that he would not have been effective if he had done so.

The NYTimes magazine claims that Penn’s operation is widely recognized as “one of the most efficient aid outfits working in Haiti today.” The article quotes a few key supporters, but I was left wondering if this was a characterization shared by the rest of the international relief community — or just the writer’s assessment.

I thought this little throw-away sentence interesting:

Penn sometimes carries a Glock, but the fire extinguisher, he claims, is a far more efficient tool for crowd control.

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