Sean Penn, recently named an ambassador to Haiti, has worked to help the people of Haiti through his J/P Haitian Relief Organization since the 2010 earthquake. Now, Penn has said his charitable work for the recovering country was inspired by a near tragedy in his family.
According to Contactmusic, the actor has said his divorce from wife and actress Robin Wright and the serious injury his son Hopper suffered soon after brought him to action. Penn says “I had been single-parenting after a divorce for about eight months, and in that time my son had a traumatic head injury. And after getting through the life threat or the brain-damage threat, still there was the pain, and then he was given morphine for the pain, and I guess… I really found affection for what those pain medications could do to people.”
Soon after, his son left to be with his mother. “I had just seen his relief and so then it was four days before the earthquake that both he and his mother had found they were ready to spend some time together, so he left, which was initially kind of a 24/7 burden of eight months that I needed to break through… After that I was just sitting around missing him, and the earthquake happened,” Penn says.
While Penn’s organization has grown and gained support from fellow celebs, including Leonardo DiCaprio who made a big donation and got others to match it, the project started out small. “I was hearing about the amputations and so on without any IV (intravenous) pain medications, so I put a little group together, but the intention initially was just to go down and distribute those medications to the hospitals and clinics that were doing surgeries. And then we had a pretty good group of people, and there were gaps to be filled… One commitment built into another one,” Penn says.
The actor also recently returned to Haiti with Oprah Winfrey to visit an earthquake survivor camp.