In January 2010, shortly after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the nation of Haiti, Sean Penn established the J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO). Today Penn directs a predominantly Haitian staff of nearly 400 development professionals to support the residents of the camps J/P HRO manages and surrounding areas transition from life left homeless by the earthquake to durable, sustainable and prosperous communities. This is done through J/P HRO’s four integrated programs: 1) Medical, 2) Camp & Relocations Management, 3) Engineering & Construction and 4) Community Development. J/P HRO is dedicated to saving lives and bringing sustainable programs to the Haitian people quickly and effectively.
For his efforts, Penn was named Ambassador at Large for Haiti and was presented with this honor by President Michel Martelly at a ceremony in Port-Au-Prince in 2012. More recently, Penn was presented with the 2012 Peace Summit Award at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, a tribute for extraordinary solidarity by the Haitian Parliament in a combined meeting of the National Assembly and the International Humanitarian Service Award from the American Red Cross. In December 2012, he was also named Special Advisor to Haiti's Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
Penn has also been honored with the following: The Commander's Award for Service (US Army 82nd Airborne Division); 82nd Airborne Award for Meritorious Service; the Operation Unified Response JTF Haiti Certificate from Lieutenant General, US Army Commander P.K. Keen; the 1st Recon 73rd Division Coin of Excellence; 2nd Brigade Combat Team Coin of Excellence; Commendation of Excellence United States Southern Command; Award of Excellence by the Deputy Commander US Southern Command; the 2010 Hollywood Humanitarian Award from the Hollywood Film Festival; the 2011 Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America; and the Children's and Families Global Development Fund Humanitarian Award, presented by the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti. In July 2010, Penn was knighted by then-Haitian President Rene Preval in a ceremony in Port-Au-Prince.
In addition to his humanitarian work, Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. Penn has been nominated five times for the Academy Award® as Best Actor for "Dead Man Walking," "Sweet and Lowdown," "I Am Sam" and won his first Oscar® in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" and his second Oscar® as Best Actor in 2009 for Gus Van Sant's "Milk." The performance as gay rights icon Harvey Milk also garnered Penn "Best Actor" awards from The Screen Actors Guild, New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Penn is also a successful screenwriter, director, producer and journalist.
As a journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, Rolling Stone and The Nation magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper reporting from Iran during the election which led to the Ahmadinejad regime. Penn's landmark interviews with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, were published in The Nation and The Huffington Post. Penn's interview with President Castro was the first-ever interview with an international journalist.