Photo © Courtesy of CORE
By Allie Murray
When Russia invaded Ukraine and forced the country into the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, Sean Penn and his crisis response nonprofit CORE quickly began working on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania to support those fleeing.
According to estimates from the UN, 12 million people in Ukraine will need relief and protection due to the war. When the war first broke out in February, Penn flew to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, where Penn noted his admiration for the president.
“I don’t know if he knew that he was born for this, but it was clear I was in the presence of something,” he told Anderson Cooper during an interview on CNN. “And again, I think reflected of so many Ukrainians, that was new to the modern world in terms of courage and dignity, and love that comes out of the man and the way he has unified that country.”
On the ground in Poland and Romania, CORE is working with international and local partners to support the immediate needs of Ukrainian people fleeing. Initially, their response focused on providing cash assistance to families and distributing hygiene kits. As the needs evolve, CORE’s efforts will adapt to support refugees relocating.
Penn founded the charity in 2010 with activist Ann Lee after an earthquake rocked Haiti, and has since worked on the ground worldwide, providing humanitarian aid in places like Brazil, Texas, Louisiana, and more.
“We are not saviours,” co-founder and CEO Lee said. “We are not coming to help for the glory and recognition, and then leaving once the initial job is completed. We are trusted partners to the community, and that requires close collaboration with community leaders and members to ensure we are addressing their needs.”
Penn amplified Lee’s statement regarding their work in Ukraine, vowing to do ‘everything he can’ to help refugees.
“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “This is one of the most heartbreaking moments in most of our lifetimes for the world at large and it is a crisis at large.”
Penn and Lee have gone between Poland and Ukraine, meeting with government officials, hearing first-hand stories from refugees, and even signing a partnership with the City of Krakow, Poland, to provide aid to refugees entering the country.
In a statement, Penn said, “Already a brutal mistake of lives taken and hearts broken, and if he doesn’t relent, I believe Mr. Putin will have made a most horrible mistake for all of human kind. President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost.”
On both Penn’s Instagram and the CORE Instagram, the team has been sharing videos, stories, and pictures to show the world what is happening in Ukraine, what they are doing to support, and how you can help.
CORE has been providing aid for more than ten years, leading sustainable programs focused on four pillars: emergency relief, disaster preparedness, environmental resilience, and community building.
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Oscar-winner Sean Penn has branded himself a hero both on-screen and off. The Mystic River star has long used his Hollywood power to mobilize and motivate change internationally. From humanitarian efforts in New Orleans and Haiti to political controversies, the likes of which have only been ventured by the bravest of journalists, Sean Penn has a history of boldly taking action for causes he cares about.