Lori Golberg is an Arizona wife and mother from an affluent neighborhood known as Paradise Valley. She is also a philanthropy powerhouse. Goldberg made it her mission to get outside of her comfort zone. Her charity, Global Family, works to rescue from poverty as many children as possible in a place she fell in love with years ago — Haiti. Not only has Goldberg changed the lives of hundreds of children, she has pushed friends and family out of their comfort zones and into new awareness about life and love.
Carey Pena: Hey everyone, it’s Carey Pena. Glad to have you with us today. “When you dare to step out of your comfort zone and simply believe that you can make a difference, you will be led down paths you’ve never imagined.” That is a quote from Kim Hupke after she did a volunteer project with Global Family. The founder of Global Family, Lori Goldberg, is with us in studio today. Lori, thank you so much for being here. It’s great to see you.
Lori Goldberg: It’s great to see you and thank you for having me.
Carey Pena: Kim Hupke volunteered with you back in 2010, and like so many people who’ve gotten involved with your great organization, she says it was life-changing. She went on to say in this quote, “Global Family gave me the opportunity to dare to step out of my comfort zone and I am forever changed.” What’s your reaction to that quote?
Lori Goldberg: It brings me so much joy, because that is my goal, for every volunteer to go into the trip with an open heart and an open mind, and experience all the country has to offer.
Carey Pena: Let’s talk about what Global Family is and how it all began. It really began with you stepping out of your own comfort zone. You came up with the idea in 2008 when you and your husband shared what you call, your Haiti, with your two daughters. What do you mean by your Haiti?
Lori Goldberg: Well, there are so many things about Haiti that are so personal to me. The sights, the smells, the people. My senses come alive when I’m there. People welcome you with open arms, and they smile, and they laugh, and they’re happy to see you. They know that you’re there to be with them and believe in them. But, sharing it with our daughters, we went into it not knowing what to expect, whether it would be really challenging for them, because they were young, or if it would be the most beautiful thing in the world. We were just so blessed to have an incredible experience with them, that they just went with the flow. They were somewhat overwhelmed with things and with people wanting to be close to them, because there aren’t a lot of children that travel to Haiti. It was a really wonderful experience for them that just opened our hearts to the idea of sharing it with more families and more individuals.
Carey Pena: I know people have asked you over the years, “Why Haiti? Why did you choose Haiti?” Do you have a good answer for that, or is it something that just spoke to you?
Lori Goldberg: Something spoke to me. The people spoke to me, especially the children. When I first went, I was there to support schools and education programs, and I really didn’t realize how many orphans there are in Haiti. Not true orphans, just parents giving their children up, because they can’t afford to care for them. They’ll put them in an orphanage, so they have a better life, and get to go to school, and have more opportunity.
Carey Pena: This is what has been really impactful to me over the years as I’ve watched Global Family grow, because you have such a personal connection to this mission. A lot of women and men do charity work, and I think that is beautiful. Anyone who steps outside of their comfort zone and does charity work should be commended. But something about your level of involvement really struck me. You live in a beautiful house. You live in an affluent neighborhood. You never had to get involved in doing this. But not only do you raise the money … I want people who are listening to know more about you. You go there regularly. You go out yourself on missions that are potentially hazardous to your own health. You rescue children from … I remember one story where you rescued a little girl from a gutter or something, correct?
Lori Goldberg: Clara. She is still with us.
Carey Pena: You went down there … Tell me that story.
Lori Goldberg: Well, a police officer told us about a little baby girl, a newborn, that was born, and it was next to the river. The mother was mentally and physically disabled, and they said that there was no hope for this little girl unless someone could rescue her, and take her to the hospital and take her in. We found Clara. She was in a very small makeshift tent on the floor, dirt floor. Her aunt was helping to care for her, because her mother, I think, was having issues feeding her. She had never seen the light of day. She was five days old when we rescued her.
Carey Pena: What was that like emotionally, for you to see a baby just sort of discarded in that way?
Lori Goldberg: Emotionally overwhelming, that there was no way … Whatever we had to do, we were going to save her, and bring her into our family and into our home. She’s the most resilient little thing that you’ll ever meet.
Carey Pena: How old is she now?
Lori Goldberg: She’s four.
Carey Pena: She’s four years old.
Lori Goldberg: She’s just full of everything.
Carey Pena: Well, the funny thing about you, I want the listeners to know, is you are a very tiny little woman. How tall are you? Just a tiny slight little woman.
Lori Goldberg: I like to say almost 5′ 4″.
Carey Pena: Okay, so we’ll give you 5′ 4″. But the thing is, is when you go down, when you go to Haiti, you really open a can of whoop you know what, because you are not messing around. You’re there to save as many children as possible, and you guys actually have built a home. This is what I love. You started Global Family, and you started going on these missions, and then you decided to do something sort of very tangible and organized. Tell me about this home that you built.
Lori Goldberg: Well, the home that we built is for the neediest children. We have had children that have come in and stayed with us, and we’ve just fostered them, and then successfully reunited them with their family, because often times there are so many stories that come with children, that someone will say they don’t have living parents, but they actually do. We really want people to know that if we can help you, if we can give you opportunity, create a small business for you, we want your child to be with you, we don’t want you to have to give your child up. But, the home that we built is really all about growing our family. We bring volunteers down there regularly. We have so many repeat volunteers that are madly in love with our children. Our kids get so excited to see them. They have ongoing relationships with them. It’s a beautiful thing.
Carey Pena: Lori, how have you dealt with the criticism over the years when people say, “Why aren’t you putting the money here at home? Why aren’t you opening an orphanage here at home, or putting your money into kids who need help in the United States?”
Lori Goldberg: It’s a really tough question, and it’s hard for me to answer, because you really have to experience Haiti firsthand to understand the need there. It is so great. It is all about survival, and for these children, and the elderly that we help, it really is a matter of life or death, because everybody’s trying to survive.
Carey Pena: It was made so much worse in 2010. I believe that was the year of the devastating earthquake, magnitude 7.0, that struck Haiti, killing more than 160,000 people, displacing close to 1.5 million people. When I read that statistic, I had to read it a few times, because to wrap your brain around 1.5 million people being displaced. Five years later, a lot of scars remain in Haiti. The citizens there are still dependent on housing and medical aid. According to a stat from the UN World Food Program, 100,000 children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition. What do you see when you go down there? Describe it to me.
Lori Goldberg: You see children that aren’t clothed, they’re barefoot. The malnourished children have lighter hair and big bellies. Because they don’t have clean drinking water, most of them have parasites, which are eating all the nutrients if they are getting any food. But sadly, Haitians are lucky to have one meal a day, and our children have three meals a day, and they’re healthy, and flourishing and thriving. But, it’s very desperate.
Carey Pena: There’s been some criticism over the years. Since this earthquake, a lot of money was raised to try to help the Haitian people, but there is a certain level of corruption there. How have you been able to cut through that and try to protect your own efforts?
Lori Goldberg: Well, with us, everything is a firsthand experience. We deliver our donations to our projects. We’re there regularly, so we’re not shipping things, and we’re sending things directly to our family members that manage our projects. But it is a very challenging place to work, because of the corruption.
Carey Pena: I want to talk to you about the emotional aspect of this. When you go to Haiti and you see this level of poverty, this level of struggle … And you are known I think as Momma Lori there. I mean, how do you return to the states to your beautiful house, to your great life, which you and your husband have worked so hard to have, but how do you return and not feel a level of guilt? How do you come back and not think about every single child there? I would just want to just bring them all back with me.
Lori Goldberg: I do come home, and it is a big adjustment, and a very emotional one because I miss them. But I realize that creating change from within and empowering this generation could be the solution for Haiti, through education, through love, through positive relationships and role models. It’s a country that’s been forgotten, and it hasn’t had great leadership, and it’s a very challenging place. But I will say that Haitians are generally very happy people. Very, very happy.
Carey Pena: What does that tell you about the human spirit, when you’re in a place like Haiti and you meet a mom. I know a lot of the stories I’ve read, the photojournalists who’ve gone to Haiti and documented, particularly since the earthquake. It’s amazing to me to see the resilience of the human spirit, that you see a mom, who’s a single mom, who’s got three, four children, and they’re living basically in shambles, and barely any food, like you said, no clothing. But there does seem to be a sense of happiness. Is it a very religious place?
Lori Goldberg: It is a religious place. The strength that Haitians have, it really blows me away. There can be a storm and your entire home could be flooded, and they’re outside waving. They’re just use to living this way. Unfortunately, we are so spoiled that we can’t even wrap our mind around something like that, that how could your home be flooded and you could still be happy and waving? We’d be going crazy.
Carey Pena: Yeah. What has this taught you? Have you sort of had to gut check, because you know as women, we like clothing, we like fashion. Does it come a point where you feel like, “Enough. I don’t need so much more stuff.”
Lori Goldberg: Definitely. I will say that it has given me a new perspective. What’s important to me is really my family and the people that I love, and good health, and helping others. It’s not about things, it’s about people.
Carey Pena: I want to talk to you about some of the creative ways that you have raised money and filled needs over the years, including Chicks For Children. I think this is so great. Tell us about this.
Lori Goldberg: Chicks For Children is about chickens, building chicken coops and sharing the gift of what a chicken can actually do. It’s a campaign that should alleviate hunger, and help people build a business, and provide good nutrition to their family members.
Carey Pena: How does it work?
Lori Goldberg: Well, we actually love to share chickens and build coops for those in need. What we do is we provide training to them on how to raise chickens. They have to commit to share the offspring and help them create a little business, so they can understand what this one chicken can do, and what it can provide to their family and to the community.
Carey Pena: Where are you doing this, Chicks For Children?
Lori Goldberg: Well, we’re doing it in Haiti, but we also just built a coop here in Phoenix at Starshine Academy.
Carey Pena: Oh, how wonderful.
Lori Goldberg: It’s wonderful.
Carey Pena: That’s great. You are doing some projects here at home as well and spreading your love here locally. You also have had some success with pop-up stores, and I know a lot of charities are often trying to figure out ways to raise money. Tell folks how you have been able to navigate a pop-up store. You said the last time you did it, you raised enough money to send an entire crate of medical supplies to Haiti.
Lori Goldberg: Yes.
Carey Pena: Tell us more about that.
Lori Goldberg: Well, the pop-up is really fun, because who doesn’t want to buy merchandise and support a great cause? But, our current pop-up is at the Scottsdale Waterfront, and the space was donated to us from the Waterfront. Then, we’ve also had so many shoes donated through Shoe Biz San Francisco, High Point, Adrian Wilson.
Carey Pena: Adrian Wilson is so great. The Cardinals player Adrian Wilson, yeah, he’s wonderful.
Lori Goldberg: He’s wonderful. He’s been there for us through and through.
Carey Pena: He’s helped you guys a lot, right?
Lori Goldberg: A lot. A lot. He participated in our pop-up three years ago. He came to our galas. He’s a wonderful man. Very humble, very kind, very giving.
Carey Pena: I’m glad you brought that up too, because I find often times a lot of professional athletes are really out there doing some tremendous things that they don’t have to do, and that they are not asking for credit. So often all we hear is the one story of an athlete who does something bad and it gets tons of press, but at the same time there are so many athletes out there doing wonderful things. I’m glad you brought up Adrian Wilson. The pop-up store is going for how long?
Lori Goldberg: It’s going through the end of the month. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend and next.
Carey Pena: Where can people find out more information?
Lori Goldberg: On our website, www.globalfamilyphilanthropy.org.
Carey Pena: All right. I want to read a few more quotes that I thought were beautiful about your effort. One of them says, “The poverty in Haiti is inconceivable. It scars one’s heart. The Haitian people are so beautiful and so in need. I am proud and honored to have been a part of a phenomenal team of volunteers that made a difference in their lives.” Another quote here, “Everything we have and everything we enjoy is due to the kindness of others. Every happiness there is in the world results of others’ kindness. Because of Lori and Global Family, that happiness is with me forever. Thank you for falling into my life, and giving me and my children the opportunity to make a difference.” That is from Stacey Webb who volunteered with you back in 2011. I see you tearing up over there. Why does it make you so emotional when I read these?
Lori Goldberg: Oh, it makes me feel good. Stacey is a sister to me and she is family. Most of the volunteers that travel with us, they become part of this Global Family. It’s really a beautiful thing, and just to know that she had that experience and her children have had it, just warms my heart.
Carey Pena: Well, it strikes me that your mission is not just about going to Haiti and helping people. You are also expanding the views and the hearts of all of the volunteers who have worked with you, who have done work with you over the years, and that’s pretty tremendous. For you personally, how has this changed you as a person?
Lori Goldberg: It’s my way of life now and it’s my priority. For my daughters, I want it to be their way of life, that think about others, put others first.
Carey Pena: Let me ask you Lori, because you’re a very frank-speaking woman, you tell it like it is. For your daughters, because you have two beautiful teenage daughters, and teenagers can be teenagers, it’s hard sometimes to get them to connect with an effort that is more than just, “Hey, we’re going to the mall,” and this, that and the other, social media. “Let’s post a bunch of pictures about ourselves.” Have you been able to break through that with your daughters?
Lori Goldberg: Somewhat. I mean, I will be honest, they are teenagers and they’re girls, but they’re amazing young women. They’re strong young women. They have shared Haiti with many of their friends, and it’s something that they’re very proud of and it’s important to them. They love our children, and our children are their siblings.
Carey Pena: You’ve been doing this now since, what do we say? When did you start? 2008?
Lori Goldberg: Yes.
Carey Pena: Seven years now. When I ask you this question and you think about five, ten years down the road, what is your hope for Global Family and your mission?
Lori Goldberg: Well, we are in the process of setting up college funds for our children, so they can either receive a higher education, or a trade school. But, at some point I’d love to have them come visit, just visit, because I want them to go back and be members of their community. But I see us having a place where we can spend more time in Haiti. When my daughters are in college, I’d like to live there part-time.
Carey Pena: For you, knowing that you have gone outside of your comfort zone to really do something to make this world a better place, how does that make you feel?
Lori Goldberg: It makes me feel good. It makes me feel really good. It’s really hard, but it makes me feel good.
Carey Pena: What personally inspires you to keep going every day, even in the hard times?
Lori Goldberg: All the little faces and the smiles, and the people that love us and that we love.
Carey Pena: One more time, where can people find you?
Lori Goldberg: On our website, www.globalfamilyphilanthropy.org.
Carey Pena: I encourage people to go there and check out all of the things that Lori’s doing, because this little lady right here, 5′ 4″ in her heels, is packing a punch. I just think your amazing. People like you inspire me. I appreciate you being here today. Lori Goldberg, thank you so much.
Lori Goldberg: Thank you Carey.