As we complete our fiscal year end (June 30), we look back on what easily qualifies as the toughest year for us in terms of our ability to keep everything going. It was most hard on Fr. Tom, who grieves the loss of one of our central staff members, Shiller, who was like a son to Tom. Sixty days after Shiller was found dead in Fr. Tom's bedroom, our doctor, Fanfan Blookington, is killed at a gas station in P-au-P, shot to death. These two deaths to our key operational staff sparked a reaction among the family and friends that put our other three key staff in danger. So in a three month, period June - August, 90%of our central P-au-P team was incapacitated.
There was much discussion of shutting things down and moving our resources and funds to the excellent programs being run by Fr. Gerard and out staff team in Gonaives. But God has odd ways of doing things, and in the midst of great powerlessness, there emerged new leaders and opportunities for positive changes that led to our most productive year yet. We added a few well trained staff, recommended to us from the Sisters of Charity, and started trying to do everything on a fraction of the previous horsepower.
"We had no choice but to use the remaining folks as best we could, or we could shut it all down. I never felt so powerless nor so overwhelmed", recalls, Fr. Tom.
St. Paul tells us that it is in our weakness that we are strong. Without really realizing it, key people began to emerge who could handle certain work, be it the feeding program, or the monthly payroll, or the oversight of the vehicles., etc.. We made each school much more autonomous. Prior to this, we operated as one school with a centralized administrative team that served eight campus locations. We worked with the staff to explain that whether the school excels or fails is largely in your hands and the hands of the parents now. Essentially, we decentralized each school and eased the management burden on our central HQ at Delmas.
This approach fit in well with our long-term plan to make HT operational without Fr. Tom or Doug on the ground constantly. During the year we tested this system by not being present for several weeks and were pleased to realize that every project can run without Tom and Doug.
Hands Together program services and output was higher during year 2015 than in any other year. A small miracle considering the devastating start of the year.
drawing strength from weakness
Working through paralyzing grief, Fr. Tom worked to rebuild our staff team and keep our schools in Cite Soleil operational. It was a superhuman effort. For months we limped along just trying to find a way to keep operational with 90% of our management team no longer there.
"Two things kept us going during the fall months: heroic work by Fr. Tom, and God's grace and providence," recalls Doug Campbell. "In March I was preparing a budget for the upcoming year and realized that we had accomplished more, had spent more, and had expanded more than any other year."
Hear is a brief summary of notable accomplishments during 2015