Contact Us

Web-Site:                 E-Mail:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What You Just Don’t Understand About My Life

This morning I woke up to paradise. A slight breeze rustled the trees outside, birds sang from the treetops, and I knew that 5 children in the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans had slept peacefully through the night living in comfort, rather than poverty, not having to wonder where their next meal was coming from or whether they would be evicted from a dilapidated tent. Every morning, as usual, I browsed the news headlines from the places I have lived: Nashville, Miami, Fiji. “15-Year-Old Boy Shot Walking Home in NW Miami”.

Ok, yea, I worked for three years at Orchard Villa Elementary in Liberty City, a neighborhood of North-West Miami. So I read the article, not expecting to find that it was my former student’s brother who had been shot in broad daylight and was in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Yea, I knew Shabazz, but not as well as his younger brother Malik. But, I did know their mom very well. She would visit my classroom unannounced to see how Malik was doing. From time to time, when her electricity was going to be cut off, or they were out of food, I would loan her some money. Never expecting to get the money back, I was always surprised and thankful when she would call my phone and tell me to drop by her house to pick up the money I loaned her. Sometimes I would sit in her living room, Malik hiding, embarrassed at having his teacher in the house, Shabazz somewhere in the neighborhood playing basketball or hanging out with friends. And now Shabazz, the son of a mother, the brother of a brother, is in critical condition after being shot by 3 masked gunmen in broad daylight.

When you see my life you can’t help to think how great it is. I was born to privilege, attended the best schools from Harvard to Vanderbilt, and have never known a day without food. You might know my experiences in Fiji, you might read about my experiences in Haiti, you may have even worked with me in Liberty City. But in the end, there has surely been a lot of strife that has surrounded my life, and I can say that it is only thanks to God that I haven’t been a victim of it. While teaching in Liberty City I have been on the receiving end of a phone call from a mother informing me that my former student’s father had been shot point blank in the face, murdered, and asked me to make sure her now fatherless son was ok. I have received a call in Nashville from my father, explaining how my best friend’s 15-year-old son had fallen off the back of a truck and died. I survived the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti and stayed for 10 days, before there was any foreign help in the country, giving first aid to the wounded, and covering the dead. I’ve discovered and reported physical abuse of an 8-year-old child, been stranded at sea in the South Pacific, and found an orphan, parentless and scared, abandoned for four days after the earthquake.

I have experienced these situations because I choose to go to places that are outside of my comfort zone. I have the privilege to do whatever I wish to do in my life, but as someone of privilege I have and continue to actively make the choice to work in the most destitute neighborhoods, communities, and countries. In my life, I will continue to see poverty, hunger, illness, malnutrition, gun-violence, gang violence, drugs and drug-violence, and death. But where these are, I will be, battling them. Because the reality is, those of us that have the resources, the education and the means, have a responsibility to serve others. In the end, it is our country that we are fighting for. It is our world that we are fighting for. I will never be satisfied that my house is safe, my neighborhood is safe, or even my community is safe. I am obligated to reach outside of that to ensure that every house is safe and fed, every neighborhood is safe and protected, and that our country and the world is a place of success, not strife.

I pray that Shabazz survives the gun shots. I pray that his family is protected from the violence of the streets of our country. I pray that we will work together, all of us, to create a better world. I encourage you to reach out to your neighbors, and to those that aren’t your neighbors, to those that are the same as you and to those that are different than you, to battle the injustices in our country and the world. In the end, if you don’t, I will.


Steven Kirby

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Travesty in Haiti: The Truth

Help H.E.R.O. Raise $25,000.00 in July!  Donate Now at!

Timothy Ferris recently wrote a book titled “Travesty in Haiti: A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid and drug trafficking”. If Ferris’ book was the only account of Haiti that you read, you would leave feeling as if Haiti was doomed. Fortunately, there are many of us that have not had similar experiences to Ferris’ and have had much more positive experiences than he. This is not to say that there aren’t corrupt orphanages, corrupt organizations, destructive food aid, million dollars of fraud, and drug trafficking, because there are. The reality is that most of the above is found in the United States as well, and it is a portrayal of only one side of a country. It is too bad that Ferris did not decide to reveal the true side of Haiti, the side where many Haitians and foreigners are working together to help the country in a manner that is efficient, effective, and of high quality.

It is hard to imagine that efficient and effective can be found in Haiti. Especially when there is breaking news this week exposing the Clinton Foundation as having provided sub-quality trailers for thousands of Haiti school children. The trailers have been found to have mold, emit high levels of formaldehyde, and reach inside temperatures of 100 degrees. Additionally, the Clinton Foundation refused to put in adequate toilets for the students, a rather poor idea considering the cholera epidemic that is sweeping the nation. (Read more here.)

Which brings me to my point. If you are going to make a donation to help the country of Haiti, it is better to know the organization personally, and know exactly the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of the organization. I have tried to do my best to make Haiti real for the readers of this blog, to help you understand the needs of the country, the needs of H.E.R.O., and my daily life on the ground here. But, what I have found is that our work in Haiti becomes truly real for the people that decide to come visit our work. In fact, 3 of our full sponsorships for our children have come from individuals that visited the H.E.R.O. residence for orphans personally, appreciated the work that we are doing in Haiti, and see the quality of our programming. We are truly blessed that currently all of the children in our education program and all of the children in our residence for orphans are fully sponsored. This truly helps H.E.R.O. to provide housing, education, and rehabilitation for the children we serve.

But for those of you that cannot make it down here, I hope that through this blog and this website you have come to realize that we are not like the Clinton Foundation, we don’t provide sub-quality anything for our children. Perhaps, however, you might wonder where your donation to H.E.R.O. will go? Well, let me provide a little insight for you. I personally pay the monthly rental costs for the house in Delmas. The car that we use to transport our children to school, to the beach, to the playground is a car that I bought with my money. Yes, we do use donations to pay for gas for the generator (power is sporadic here), but it goes into a generator that I bought with my own money. Your donation goes directly to items that impact the children. The food they eat, the clothes they wear, the water they drink, the education they receive, is all provided through our donors.

I write this blog to help us understand the reality of aid in Haiti. There are local and international organizations that do great work, and there are local and international organizations that do horrible work. When you decide to make a donation to help the children, people, and country of Haiti all I ask is that you investigate thoroughly the organization that you will donate to, so that the money reaches the people it is intended to serve. In the end, we hope that you will choose H.E.R.O. as the organization you trust to make a true difference in the lives of children in Haiti.


Steven Kirby

Help H.E.R.O. Raise $25,000.00 in July!  Donate Now at!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Volunteer in Haiti: No Easy Task

Help H.E.R.O. Raise $25,000.00 in July!  Donate Now at!

Meet Toni Burns. Toni has not led a life of luxury. Diagnosed with diabetes as a toddler, Toni lived in various foster homes as a child, one in which the foster mother was a cocaine dealer, and resulted in Toni’s temporary addiction to cocaine as well. At 14 Toni was diagnosed with a rare cancer in her leg that had to be amputated above the knee to save her life. Now in her mid-forties, Toni is an amputee, blind in one eye, suffers from fibromyalgia, is prone to seizures, and has had three heart attacks in the past two years. Toni lives in the heart of Alaska, leading a life devoted to God.
When Toni learned about H.E.R.O. and the opportunity to volunteer with our organization she jumped at the chance. In fact, Toni had to create an e-mail address just to get in contact with our Country Director, a testament to her persistence to come to Haiti. After learning that the team she was supposed to join canceled their trip to Haiti, Toni was undeterred. She had made a decision to come to Haiti to help the street children and orphans. Blessed with a talent for building and renovating houses she wanted to help H.E.R.O. make our residence for orphans in Port-au-Prince shine. Toni’s church sponsored her travel to Haiti and raised funds to fill 2 large bags with clothes, educational games, hygiene products, and much more.

For 10 days Toni worked with the children and staff of H.E.R.O. to build much needed shelves for the storage of our food, supplies, and incoming donations. Toni also had the opportunity to tour the destruction that still exists in Port-au-Prince, even meeting a fellow amputee. The reality is that Haiti is a difficult country to navigate with two fully functioning legs, never-mind only one. While putting together one of the shelves Toni lost her balance and fell backwards, directly onto one of her elbows. Thankfully we were prepared and quickly placed her arm in a sling, wrapped ice on the elbow, and she took some pain medicine. Always a trooper, Toni was up the next morning, ready to finish her projects.

Toni returned to Alaska this past weekend. As she left she expressed a desire to visit H.E.R.O. again to continue helping the children of Haiti. I am amazed at her dedication and perseverance, not only to come down to Haiti, but to continue living her life, serving God, despite the medical and life trauma she has experienced. Her trip here to Haiti inspires me to continue the work of H.E.R.O. and create an organization that serves the street children and orphans of Haiti at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. I have been blessed with an amazing family, great health, the opportunity for an excellent education. If Toni can help Haiti despite her challenges, then there is absolutely zero reason why someone like me can’t contribute to help the disenfranchised youth of Haiti. I thank Toni for her commitment to the children of Haiti and await her return in the near future. Thank you for making a difference.


Steven Kirby

Help H.E.R.O. Raise $25,000.00 in July! Donate Now at!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Our Donors Saved Franky from a Life of Misery and Neglect. You Can Too!

To Make A Donation Now Click Here!

Have you ever lost your father to street violence? Have you ever lost your mother after a catastrophic natural disaster? Have you ever been physically and emotionally abused at the hands of an adult? Have you ever lived in a 10 foot by 10 foot tarp house with no running water or electricity? Have you ever gone days without a meal? Have you ever missed a day of elementary school because you couldn’t afford it? Have you ever suffered all of the above by the age of 10? Have you ever experienced all of the above, and then been given a new lease on life that doesn’t include any of the above? Meet Franky, a child at the H.E.R.O. Residence for Orphans in Port-au-Prince. If Franky can survive this, then he deserves your assistance. What role will you play in Franky’s life?

Franky was a stranger to education. At the age of eight he had never been to school before. His father died when he was a toddler, leaving him in the care of his mother and her abusive boyfriend. One day Franky noticed that the private school in his neighborhood, SOPUDEP, started a free education program for the under-privileged children of the neighborhood. Franky eagerly enrolled in the school. For the first time in his life Franky sat on a school bench, listened to the words of a teacher, and tried to learn how to read.

I met Franky that year after I started volunteering at SOPUDEP, teaching English classes twice a week. When Rea Dol, the Director of SOPUDEP, explained to me that there was no money in the budget to pay the teachers for Franky’s afternoon school program, I jumped at the opportunity to help. For $200 a month I was able to pay the salaries of four teachers, and ensure the continuity of the education program. Franky was still trying to learn how to read, with little success. He could not write his name, he did not recognize the letters in the alphabet, he was struggling.

On January 12th, 2010, Franky was leaving the afternoon education program. As he walked by the rock wall that bordered the school, the ground shook and rumbled with great force. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake sent the rock wall tumbling on top of Franky, trapping him. Strangers rushed to Franky’s rescue, removing the rubble around him, and dragging him to safety. Thankfully, Franky wasn’t seriously injured, and shortly after stumbled to his house: to find his mother dead.

Months passed before I saw Franky again. While he was living a new life in a tent and suffering under the abuse of his mother’s boyfriend, the only adult left to care for him, I was starting H.E.R.O. As part of H.E.R.O.’s mission to serve the children of Haiti we partnered with SOPUDEP to create the Education Program for Street Children, a program that has grown from 26 to over 70 students in just one year. As the school year began this past August Franky was back. He was sitting in the same bench as last year, listening to the teacher, still not able to read.

In January of this year, when H.E.R.O. officially opened the Port-au-Prince Residence for Orphans, Franky was one of the first children to enroll. He now receives 3 nutritious meals daily, monthly medical checks, and most importantly, is removed from an abusive home environment. What is even more impressive is that after participating in at-home daily tutoring, Franky has started to read! Franky has a long road ahead of him, both academically and emotionally. But H.E.R.O. is able to provide a foundation for Franky to be successful.

What role will you play in Franky’s life? Without H.E.R.O. Franky would be living in poverty at the hands of an abusive adult, relegated to a life of misery and neglect. Without donors, H.E.R.O. would not exist. Because of H.E.R.O., Franky’s future is bright and filled with hope. Your donation to the H.E.R.O. Annual Fund will continue to provide Franky with all of the necessities of life. Join us and make a difference in the lives of children in Haiti.

To Make A Donation Now Click Here!