Sean Penn’s work with CORE and in Ukraine earns CNN Heroes Award

Longtime Malibu resident Sean Penn is busy in the throes of his latest documentary. He made it in the middle of the battle lines of the Ukraine. The actor and filmmaker found himself in the area when Russia first invaded, and was right in the thick of things. He said that every time he walked across the border from Poland, he found a line of cars — mostly women, many with their children — fleeing the war zone.

He added they all were hesitant to leave their husbands and sons (ages 18-80) alone to stay behind and fight. In his documentary, he films a personal sit-down with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

But Sean was realistic, adding, “I am not certain what we can offer.” But every gallon of fresh bottled water, a needed vile of medicine and medical supplies adds up, not to mention lives that are changed. 

“The only reason for me staying even longer than the last time would be for me to be holding a rifle, probably without body armor,” Penn shared. “Because as a foreigner you would want to it to go to one of the civilian fighters who doesn’t have it or to a fighter who has more skills than I have.” 

He does however plan on returning to Ukraine. In the meantime, his organization, called CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) is taking steps to help.

According to Penn, when a crisis strikes, CORE immediately steps in to fill in the gaps. CORE brings relief to those who need it most. The organization kicked into gear on January 12, 2010, when a massive earthquake struck in Haiti and 250,000 lives were lost.

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CORE is supporting refugees in Poland and could move to Ukraine as soon as there are resources on the ground. Penn expected to pitch his tent and spend a couple weeks, but then it was one day after another. 

Penn has said “if you’ve been fighting, it has to cross your mind. And your kind of [thinking] what century is this?” He says he was “filling up my gas at station in Brentwood and now ‘I’m thinking about taking arms against Russia!’ What the [expletive] is going on?”

His documentary includes an up-close account 

of the devastation and the refugees fleeing the country.

As for Haiti, the 7.0 earthquake in was filled with challenges. During his visit, he got to meet with Ann Lee to provide the day-to-to-day essentials. She became the co-founder of CORE.

Even today, the group works with dozens of Haitian employees to rebuild and reimagine communities in need. Whether it is a hurricane damage control in Florida, cleaning and providing for those in Haiti, or rebuilding Ukraine, you can count on CORE to score.

And the helping hand doesn’t go unnoticed. Sean recently received the prestigious CNN Heroes Award.

Sean would not consider himself one of the CNN Heroes, which acknowledges extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. As to the honor, Sean would only say, “I got a front-row seat to what heroism is. If your mind is open, if your heart is open, boy, it’s not hard to find.”

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