Belfast Telegraph

Sean Penn hopeful of Haiti recovery

Actor Sean Penn, who has been praised for his help in fighting the devastation brought about in Haiti by the 2010 earthquake, has said that the country is finally beginning to show signs of recovery.

Despite never having visited Haiti before the disaster struck more than two years ago, Sean has put down roots in the country and has become a major figure in the effort to rebuild.

"At the beginning, we thought he was going to be like one of the celebrities who don't spend the night," said Maryse Kedar, president of an education foundation who has worked alongside Sean. "I can tell you that Sean surprised a lot of people here. Haiti became his second home."

The actor, who was once married to Madonna, started as the head of a band of volunteers, morphed into the unofficial mayor of a golf course-turned-homeless camp and became a member of what passes for Haiti's establishment - a part of the president's circle who addresses investors at aid conferences and represents the Caribbean country to the world.

He is now an ambassador-at-large for president Michel Martelly, the first non-Haitian to receive the designation, and head of the J/P Haitian Relief Organisation, a rapidly growing and increasingly prominent aid group.

The actor, who is being honoured for his work in Haiti on April 25 with the 2012 Peace Summit Award at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Chicago, has attached himself to an unlikely cause: helping a country that has lurched from one calamity to another.

"This country is finally getting out of the hole," Sean, 51, said. "My job is to help people get the future they want to have."

He added: "When people say to me, oh you don't speak Creole yet? I say, yeah, 'have you moved 40,000 people?'"

Bichat Laroque, a 26-year-old who lives with his mother in the displaced persons camp managed by Penn's organisation, said: "He married Madonna and he made a lot of money and after a terrible earthquake he says, 'Let's do good things in Haiti.'"

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