Sean Penn helped a pregnant woman in Haiti rush to the hospital as she went into labor in his new documentary, Citizen Penn

By Alexia Fernández
April 29, 2020 10:02 AM

In the new documentary Citizen Penn, director Don Hardy shines a light on the hardships endured in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake drastically altered the country and the lives of millions — and how Sean Penn stepped in to help.

In a PEOPLE exclusive look at a clip, the actor, 59, helps rush a pregnant woman into the back of a truck as she goes into labor.

"We could take people up to a certain degree of care, we could do minor surgeries," Penn says in the scene. "But once you had something the required something more sophisticated, we had to transport them somewhere."

The clip shows Penn helping a group of men settle a woman into the back of a pickup truck as she goes into labor.

Penn climbs onto the side of the truck as it starts driving, urging other cars to move aside as they attempt to rush to the nearest hospital.

Sean Penn in Haiti
| Credit: Citizen Penn

"OK, good luck," Penn says as he hops off of the truck.

Penn traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake and worked to provide relief efforts with the NGO he helped create, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE).

Along with doctors, emergency workers and government officials, Penn has helped a team of over 150 Haitian employees rebuild their communities.

“The first thing to understand about CORE is that it never has been solely my effort,” Penn tells PEOPLE. “From the very beginning, it represented the efforts of so many."

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He continues, "In our early days after the 2010 earthquake, I was hyper-aware of the skeptical lens through which my presence may be viewed, so both in order to somewhat diffuse cliché optics, as well as to operate efficiently, I had, for the most part, banned use of social media within our group (clearly not able to fully police, nor gain full compliance to). Once the emergency phase had completed, I became a bit more relaxed about those things."

"Then Don Hardy, who is a filmmaker I have great trust in, came along and compiled from every source imaginable, including images in which I appeared that I’d in so many cases not previously known existed," Penn adds. "At that point, one hopes that through his choice to focus on me, the bigger story of the organization’s mission and its ultimately Haitian leadership in that country could be told."

CORE’s efforts have continued in Haiti and have also turned to the U.S. where Penn and the NGO have worked toward bringing more COVID-19 testing.

"We have to be careful in the United States to not let our relatively comfort-addicted instincts overwhelm our societal prerogative of sacrifice to rise," says Penn. "Haitians, for the most part, have known so little of the comforts so many of us in the U.S. have come to take for granted."

"In the end, my greatest hope is that we rise to parallel the resilience of Haitians while owning up to our far more resource-able blessings."