Sean Penn: “Now Is An Important Moment For Haiti”


Above: Petion-Ville, Haiti (CJ Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Actor and activist Sean Penn is urging the international community to continue its support for Haiti as the country experiences a “rebirth of sorts.”

Penn, who spoke at the World Bank headquarters in Washington last week, is the founder and CEO of the Haiti-based J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

Penn said it was time to “seize opportunities in Haiti,” a country he said could “provide incredible value to other countries as well as to itself, especially by virtue of its private sector.”

“Haitians are ready and willing to be the soldiers of change,” he said.

Penn, who was named a goodwill ambassador for the country last year by Haiti President Michel Martelly, held talks on Friday with Hasan Tuluy, vice president at the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The J/P HRO relief organization, which was founded shortly after the earthquake in 2010, now has approximately 400 in Haiti, 98 percent of whom are Haitian.

Tuluy himself said Haiti’s diaspora could play a major rule in helping the country develop.

“There is an enormous human capital, intelligence, energy, capacity for networking out there in the diaspora,” he said. “We need to create conditions where the diaspora is brought in and contribute as they are keen to do.”

In a recent interview with Caribbean Journal, Haiti Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said that, in order to tap the diaspora, Haiti needed to “create basic infrastructure for the diaspora to feel welcome.”

“Now is an important moment for Haiti,” Penn said. “A time to seize opportunities. The growth of the internet and social media has shown young Haitians that development is a human right, meaning that Haiti cannot fall into the old pattern.”