BY LAURA PAVIN | Contributor September 17, 2012 7:31AM
DEERFIELD — Deerfield native Eric Lyons is as humble as they come so it took some prying to learn that for the past eight years he’s sacrificed his life for the good of those without a “voice” in developing countries with his Hope for the Silent Voices nonprofit organization.
Lyons founded the service initiative in 2006, primarily to help bring resources and attention to the countless disadvantaged and sexually exploited children living in Southeast Asia.
His organization’s work also reaches parts of Latin America and the United States, and supports individuals with mental and physical disabilities.
“I think that in this world, we are all the same people; we are all just born into different areas, under different circumstances,” Lyons said. “So, we have a responsibility to tend to our global citizens around the world no matter where they’re from.”
After graduating with a degree in marketing from the University of Kentucky in 1995, Lyons managed a few different fitness clubs while pursuing a career in law enforcement before moving to Dallas in 2003.
Lyons explained that he went to Dallas after he realized that his work in Chicago was missing the type of fulfillment he wished for in a vocation.
After a close friend sent him a news article in 2004 about a tsunami relief mission in Sri Lanka, Lyons found himself on a plane ride to the country to excavate bodies from the wreckage and assist victims.
“A week after (he sent me the article) I was digging for bodies and doing all sorts of things that I had never gone to school for or possibly been prepared to do, but it felt like the beginning of discovering myself,” Lyons said.
Lyons said the situation that affected him the most was the sexual exploitation of children as young as three years old. That realization motivated Lyons to fly back to the country to assist those victims. He completed that mission multiple times before realizing that he had found his life’s calling.
He founded Hope for the Silent Voices three years after his initial trip to Sri Lanka. The goal, he said, is to help provide many of the country’s underprivileged people with the basic nourishment and safety they need to survive. The organization later adjusted to address the sexual exploitation epidemic affecting young children.
The effort grew into a more sustainable nonprofit when Lyons began blogging about his experiences and the cause.
“I began getting $1,000 checks from people I had never met that said they appreciated what we were doing, and that they would like to help,” Lyons said.
Lyons also takes volunteers on “impact trips” to help people in the U.S. better understand the quality of life issues those in third world countries are forced to deal with every day.
John Lyons, Eric’s father, expressed pride that his son has found a path in life that he feels strongly about.
“He, in my mind, is a hero doing selfless work,” John Lyons said. “He is constantly raising money and taking groups to Southeast Asia to help the underprivileged.”
For more information about Lyons’ efforts and how to help, visit www.hopeforthesilentvoices.org.