KARACHI / HYDERABAD: The people of Badin might not have known who Sean Penn is, but they shared their stories with the two-time Oscar winner about losing their homes in the 2011 floods.
Penn was part of the eight-member delegation of the United States diplomats and visitors who visited Badin on Friday and toured the flood-hit areas of the district. The delegation, including the US Consul General Willian J Martin, also held an hour-long meeting with the Badin DC, Kazim Jatoi.
Martin and Penn visited Karim Bux Jamali and Dargah Shah Gurio villages in Badin and handed out blankets, quilts, kitchen items and other goods among the people. Later, they also distributed relief goods to a village near Peero Lashari at Talhar road.
Penn mingled with the Kohli community’s flood survivors and asked them about the health and education facilities available in the area for their children. He seemed to be listening attentively as the people informed him about how the rains and floods destroyed their crops, ending their livelihood and rendering them homeless.
Misri Kolhi, who is the only literate man in his community, said that he was thankful to the American delegation for their assistance. “We have lost everything during the floods and are unable to earn an income as our brick factories are still submerged in knee-deep water,” he complained.
Martin, while talking to the media, said that the US has provided goods worth more than $25 million for the flood victims. The USAID has distributed 60,000 emergency shelters in addition to health clinics, which provided medical treatment to over a million people. He added that in the immediate aftermath of the flood, 1.6 million people were supplied water while food was provided to 1.2 million people. An emergency nutrition programme for 16,000 families is still going on, he said. Talking about the relations between Pakistan and the US, Martin said that the relations are slowly being restored as the ‘confusion’ which stemmed from the Salala check post attack dispels.
Penn on the other hand refused to talk to the media, saying that the purpose of his visit was solely to interact with the flood survivors.
The actor, the humanitarian
As much as the Hollywood actor and director is known for his performances, he is also known for his social activism and humanitarian work. The star of “Dead Man Walking”, “Mystic River” and “Milk” has been most appreciated for his efforts towards rebuilding and aiding the victims of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Following the earthquake, he co-founded the charitable organisation, J/P Haitian Relief Organisation, which manages a camp for 50,000 people along with provision of food, sanitation and health care. With awards such as the Oscars, Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild award already under his belt, he will receive an award at the 2012 Peace Summit at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates next month in recognition of his charitable efforts in Haiti.
Penn issued a statement to express his gratitude for the award. “I’m thrilled to receive this tribute and to represent it to the youth of Haiti, the strong women of Haiti, and of the world. Tomorrow is a new day where cynicism is for cowards, and men of virtue and agency will be true heroes to their sons.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.