Sean Penn, Rainn Wilson And Soleil Moon Frye Launch Digital Recovery Campaign For Haiti

VENICE, CA - OCTOBER 11: (L-R) Bill Baumgart, Ann Lee, Rainn Wilson and Soleil Moon Frye attend The Long Run For Recovery: An Evening hosted by Rainn Wilson and Soleil Moon Frye in Support of Haiti and Hurricane Florence Relief Presented by WRLDX Funds Without Borders on October 11, 2018 in Venice, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for WRLDX )

Rainn Wilson and Soleil Moon Frye hosted a special evening on October 11 in conjunction with Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization. Held at Gjelina restaurant in Venice, the intimate occasion included cocktails, dinner and discussion of ongoing disaster relief efforts, including the newly launched campaign, The Long Run For Recovery.

Also present was Wilson’s wife, author Holiday Reinhorn. The couple’s foundation, Lidè Haiti, provides academic support and arts programs to Haitian girls ages 11 to 21. Lidè is one organization partnering with J/P HRO for the Long Run campaign. Additional hosts included Ann Lee, CEO of J/P HRO, and Bill Baumgart, CEO of WRLDX Funds Without Borders, who made the evening possible.

The philanthropic evening’s focus was on The Long Run for Recovery, a virtual marathon throughout Haiti that allows participants to join as digital runners, syncing their personal supporter page to FitBit, MapMyFitness or Strava to track their progress on the virtual course. Funds raised support relief efforts in Haiti and in United States areas recently affected by hurricanes.

The Long Run For Recovery: An Evening Hosted By Rainn Wilson And Soleil Moon Frye In Support Of Haiti And Hurricane Florence Relief Presented By WRLDX Funds Without Borders
Author Holiday Reinhorn and her husband, actor Rainn Wilson, are the founders of Lidè Haiti, a foundation providing education programs to adolescent girls in Haiti.

Photo Credit: Donato Sardella/Getty Images for WRLDX

Sean Penn founded J/P HRO in 2010 following the massive earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country. The organization has worked tirelessly to improve the situation there, having relocated 60,000 people, administered 4,000 vaccinations, and placed 6,000 students in school programs, among other milestones.

Although not present for the evening in Venice, Sean Penn shared with Haute Living his thoughts on J/P HRO’s progress. “Of course, we’re very proud of what we accomplished in Haiti, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, again after Hurricane Matthew, and in years since,” Penn said. “However, we at once recognize that the destruction which disasters inflict is really the symptom of bigger problems that need to be addressed — poverty, inequality, and broken systems. Crises like earthquakes and hurricanes uncover underlying problems that have always been there, and it’s incumbent upon us to address not only the symptom, but also the cause of this suffering.”

The Long Run For Recovery: An Evening Hosted By Rainn Wilson And Soleil Moon Frye In Support Of Haiti And Hurricane Florence Relief Presented By WRLDX Funds Without Borders
Ann Lee, CEO of J/P HRO hugged Soleil Moon Frye, who has been an active supporter of friend Sean Penn’s organization.

Photo Credit: Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for WRLDX

Sean Penn also shared his thoughts on how the American government and American businesses could improve in the approach to assistance, both worldwide and close to home. “In terms of our government’s aid policies, we’d like to see a focus on preparedness,” Penn said. “Every dollar spent on disaster preparedness is six times more effective that post-disaster spending.”

Of this desired emphasis on preparation, not just recovery alone, Penn continued: “At J/P HRO, we want to work with local governments, businesses, and communities to invest in preparedness; so future disasters have less deadly, destructive, and expensive impacts. That’s exactly what we’re piloting in Savanah, Georgia. We’re partnering with local stakeholders to train young people as certified disaster preparedness advocates in their communities.”

Echoing Sean Penn’s remarks that relief efforts in disaster-stricken areas can uncover problems that require long-term aid, hosts Rainn Wilson and Soleil Moon Frye shared with guests their own personal experiences assisting the cause.

The Long Run For Recovery: An Evening Hosted By Rainn Wilson And Soleil Moon Frye In Support Of Haiti And Hurricane Florence Relief Presented By WRLDX Funds Without Borders
Actress Soleil Moon Frye shared with those gathered at Gjelina in Venice how witnessing Sean Penn’s passion for the project inspired her to find a way to help.

Photo Credit: Donato Sardella/Getty Images for WRLDX

“I first went to Haiti about 10 years ago,” Soleil Moon Frye said, recounting the story of how a conversation with Sean Penn was the catalyst for her involvement. “I bumped into Sean, who had been a lifelong friend of my father’s. And I said, ‘I really want to go see what’s happening.’ And he said, ‘If you’re serious, pack up a suitcase, meet me there on Tuesday.’ And I packed up as much medical supplies as I could find … I didn’t even know what to expect, but I walked into a situation that was unlike any I’ve ever seen — 65,000 people living in a tent city.”

Rainn Wilson also addressed the small gathering at Gjelina, relating how his involvement began long before the 2010 earthquake, through his work with The Mona Foundation, for which he served as a board member. Following the natural tragedy, he and his wife established Lidè, which translates to “leaders.” He said, “[I realized] that education was where my passion was, that I wouldn’t be where I am without the education that I have — the teachers and mentors who stepped in at the right time to show me and help me along the way. And I wanted to give children around the world those same opportunities.”

Long Run for Recovery, WRLDX, Lide Haiti and Sean Penn's J/P HRO
“I’m really excited to be part of the Long Run for Haiti, this idea of using a digital space in fundraising, in innovative ways, a virtual marathon,” Rainn Wilson said as Ann Lee and Soleil Moon Frye looked on.

Photo Credit: Donato Sardella/Getty Images for WRLDX

Wilson says he and his wife were so inspired by the Haitians’ vibrant culture, humor, language and music that they wanted to find more ways to help. At a J/P HRO camp, the couple participated in a United Nations-supported arts workshop for adolescent girls. “It was an extraordinarily powerful experience to see these shy, frail, girls who had no voice utterly transform over the course of 10 days … and these girls had gained confidence and a sense of themselves, a pride in who they were and in their work and we were really struck,” Wilson said.

To close his remarks, Wilson shared a memory of his very first visit to Haiti, when he saw a little girl trying to do her homework by the light of a trash fire. And he stressed the importance of supporting, in particular, female youth in Haiti to encourage positive societal changes. “If you want to impact the world in the best possible way, just micro-target girls’ education, because that transforms communities,” Wilson said.



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