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
- "Field of Dreams" - we did what people told us was not possible; we built a first rate soccer and recreation field in the heart of what the United Nations has declared "the most violent place on earth." It has transformed our school system, it has breathed energy, pride, hope and dignity into these communities who will use this field for events and tournaments and celebrations. It will be filled with the sounds of children playing and laughing and filled with life. We honor the Jones Day Foundation for providing the start-up money to move this project from a dream shared between Fr. Tom and Jones Day President, Stephen Brogan in 2013, to a reality as of July 5th, 2015.
- Dignity Centers - in the heart of Gonaives poorest slum we built a "Community Dignity Center." Designed as a nutrition center and fundamental school, it offers nutrition to at risk infants, education and feeding to 200 students k-5, and bath houses and clean water access for the community. We will replicate this in a desperate area nearby and install similar bath/water stations at our schools in Cite Soleil in P-au-P.
- MUSIC CAN SUCCEED WHERE WORDS FAIL - Music School - "After the 2010 earthquake I recall standing in the road with Fr. Tom and other survivors. None of us could speak - there were no words. Then, people began to sing, a pure cry of help to our God. I remember thinking to myself, 'there are times where words just fail, but music can succeed in bringing hope and strength." - Doug Campbell. HT and the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince joined together to construct a large music school and symphony hall. It will give the poorest children from our schools and from all parts of Haiti the chance to develop the latent, beautiful musical talent hidden in children who, until now, could never dream of playing an instrument.
- Clarke Farm expansion and managers residence - Our Clarke Farm produces much of the food for our rural schools and offers hands-on training for agronomy students from several of Haiti's Agricultural Schools. Revolving programs for rural farmers teach them methods to produce much higher yields and more valuable crops.
- Water = LIFE - After 15 years of good service our 1975 water drilling rig finally became too worn out to function. We purchased a refurbished T3W - Ingersoll Rand rig that allows us to use parts from our old machine. It is a smaller, but sturdier machine and excellent for Haiti. We have drilled 18 wells in the month of July. Our all-Haitian crew received a month of expert training and we can now bring water to places where people suffered terribly from unclean water and no irrigation. Few things can do more to change the health of a village than plentiful, clean, drinkable water.
facing a financial challenge
Undertaking so many large projects last year caused a $900,000 overspend. For the first time since 1987, find ourselves challenged by the lack of funding.
"We drew needed funding from our prudent reserve, and we thank God that we so carefully saved for precisely this situation. But we still need to complete several, unfinished projects," remarks Doug Campbell. We pray that with a successful annual appeal letter, generous collections generated by our hard working mission appeals team who will talk in over 150 parishes, and potential foundation/grant sources, we can raise the funds needed for these new, but half finished projects.
list of projects and funds needed to complete them
(coming very soon)