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.
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