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One Oscar-winning American actor is aiming to share the stories of Haitians, thousands of whom are homeless and living in crowded camps. This movie star, known for his activism, has pitched a tent in one of those camps. NPR's Katia Riddle tracked him down and filed this report.
KATIA RIDDLE: One of the largest camps in Haiti, one that is home to more than 40,000 people, one that has doctors and residents working from a makeshift hospital, has a nickname: the Sean Penn camp.
Mr. SEAN PENN (Actor): Because if we had an oxygen machine, it would help out, like, a lot.
RIDDLE: Sure enough, a few minutes later, Sean Penn himself walks out. Penn and the medical team he's helped put together are sleeping among the people in this camp.
Mr. PENN: There's not nearly enough tents here for 46 people, families and more. Not a healthy place for kids to be, and we're going to have incredible problems when the rains come. So we're doing all we can in that effort.
RIDDLE: Penn says he got to Haiti a week after the earthquake and set up an NGO. He's been there on and off ever since. He says when he saw the earthquake, he remembered Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and how much help was needed then. So this time he made contact right away with the U.S. Army.
Mr. PENN: They needed help and said so, and so we were able to have a great collaboration with them. It built very quickly when I told a friend of mine who's a businesswoman of our intentions to come down, just a few of us. She then seeded us some initial funds that got us on our feet here. And so here we are.
RIDDLE: The doctors and nurses working in this camp wear T-shirts and hats that bear the acronym of the group Penn and his partner have set up: Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization.
The Sean Penn camp where also known as the golf course camp, because it sits on what used to be the country club. Right now Penn says his biggest concern is relocating the thousands of people who live here before the rains hit.
Mr. PENN: These tents will be likely washed away. The stakes that hold them in are going to be torn up by the water. And before that happens, the water comes straight under the tents immediately, and they become just mud baths.
RIDDLE: I asked Penn what he's taken away from his time in Haiti.
Mr. PENN: Well, it's exhausting. But you know, I don't know. That's something to be digested later.
RIDDLE: As I was leaving, I asked one of the residents of the camp what he thought about Sean Penn. He said he's never seen any of his movies but he really appreciates all Penn's help.
Katia Riddle, NPR News.
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