Hands Together received an exceptional 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for another consecutive year. Charity Navigator puts 1.5 million charities through a rigorous financial check-up and only 15% have received consecutive 4-star ratings. This exceptional designation sets Hands Together apart from its peers and demonstrates its trustworthiness to the public. We are grateful for this designation.
HT's Annual Fundraiser - Golf Classic was a Great Success
This year's Golf Classic was a great success. The results are in and we’ve exceeded our goal, in fact we doubled it and raised over $150,000. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause! Thanks to the generosity of Joe Taylor and Matrix Development group, the Hands Together Golf Classic has generated nearly 2.4 million dollars over the past 2 decades. All of these funds go directly to help the poor in Haiti. Matrix donates the course and food/beverage so that every gift goes to where it is needed most - the projects that help the children in the poorest slum of Haiti. The folks at Jumping Brook Country Club did a fantastic job as always!
Apostolic Delegate Tours Becky DeWine Schools & Attends Celebration of Boston Clinic Opening
"Each one of you is loved by God"
Archbishop Eugene Martin, the Apostolic Delegate to Haiti representing Pope Francis, spent the day on March 9 visiting Hands Together's Becky DeWine School campuses and medical clinic in Cite Soleil.
Our St. Francis de Sales student body welcomed the Archbishop with a vibrant assembly that included student performances, questions, and the presentation of a painting of Pope Francis. Responding to one student's question, "What is the mission of the Church?", Archbishop Martin shared the following, "The mission of the church is to bring the good news and word of God to all people. It is to bring the Love of Jesus to people far and wide. Everyone one of us participates in this mission in a unique and special way. Each one of you is loved by God and called to share this love with all those you encounter."
Archbishop Martin went on to tour the new computer center which gives our high school students access to 85 new laptops and a virtual library of 350,000 volumes. Then it was onto the state of the art soccer field which is such a blessing to all the children at our schools. Archbishop Martin got to see our students in action on the new artificial turf field.
Our 12 health agents, who have been trained as paramedics thanks to the efforts of HT's Dr. Jim DellaValle, prepared a celebration to mark the opening of the clinic in Boston that had been closed for 2 years due to violence and instability. As Archbishop Eugene Martin stepped from the car, the people froze. They were mesmerized and speechless at the site of this tall, Irish clergyman in full dress, representing Pope Francis as he walked up to them and declared, "I come on behalf of Pope Francis, who would want to be nowhere else but here with you today." The crowd cheered and applauded as Archbishop Martin blessed all the rooms of our newly renovated medical clinic.
Please join us or support us through this year's Golf Classic. We weathered one of the most violent and difficult years of our existence and through God's grace we increased our outreach to Haiti's poor and expanded our schools and programs. We really need your help this year to keep it all going.
The event is held at Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune, New Jersey - a top notch club with a great staff. If you don't golf or cannot take a whole day off, please consider coming to the dinner as dozens of friends and supporters do each year. This is more than a golf tournament, it is Hands Together primary public event where all our friends can come together and see Fr. Tom Hagan and share a little fellowship.
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)
It's with profound grief that we share with you the deaths of two key Hands Together Haitian employees: Shiler Jean and Dr. Fanfan Blookington. Their tragic deaths occurred within six weeks of each other and it has left us severely saddened and very crippled.
Shiler Jean was found dead in our residence on June 26th. The cause of death was a bullet wound to the head. Circumstances surrounding his death are still under investigation. Dr. Fanfan was killed on August 16th, by two thieves who robbed him after going to the bank. He was shot multiple times by the assailants.
"I feel like I've lost a son," says Fr. Tom Hagan in response to the death of Shiler Jean. "We helped him turn from a life in the gangs and gave him great dignity and purpose in working in our central office. He was a prolific worker and handled the majority of our administrative work in Port-au-Prince. I cannot begin to express how painful this is and how much I will miss him."
Fr. Tom expressed the enormity of this tragedy by stating, "It is like we are a boat that has just been hit by two torpedoes and has rendered us dead in the water. It will take a long time to restructure our staff now and it feels like we just keep getting damaged."
Both Dr. Fanfan and Shiler held invaluable roles within our organization. Fanfan was incredibly dedicated and reliable, taking out the mobile clinic every day and treating thousands of sick people in Cite Soleil. It cannot be overstated how much he was loved. Shiler handled many of our programs and staff contracts and issues. He would check in with Fr. Tom every night before bed to make sure he was all right.
"I don't think anyone really understood or grasped how close Fr. Tom and Shiler had become. Remarkably, Tom was, for the first time, beginning to tell me that he actually looked forward to getting back to Haiti to work on the projects, and I think that Shiler was a big reason for that. For so long our efforts were so hampered and sluggish, and we had just begun to develop a team of Haitians who were working well together. I know that it is blow and a pain that Tom will carry to the end. My heart hurts for him and I am so disgusted at the ugly and dark side of the Haitian life and the cruelty and division that exists among this poverty. Only God can handle this. " Doug Campbell
" Fanfan's murder was almost too much to bear. I was very fond of him and of all our staff, he was probably the easiest to work with and rely upon. He gave excellent council, he would help any of our 5000 students, their parents, our staff... anytime. Most of all, he was genuine and really loved being a doctor. He had found is mission and God was working through him. I cannot imagine Hands Together without him. We are fortunate that Fanfan brought on another Haitian doctor to help with the clinic about six months ago, and we also have some help from a volunteer priest from California, Fr. Harry. We will trudge on, but I will really miss him. " Doug Campbell
We ask that you pray for both of them that God has them safely at rest in the place prepared for them.
A note from HT Chairman regarding Paul's passing:
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. This afternoon we received word of the sad passing of Paul E. Sigmund who was one of the longest standing Hands Together Trustees and a tireless friend and supporter of the organization for over two decades. Paul's dedication and support of Hands Together will be sorely missed, as will his friendship and guidance.
April 28, 2014 - A local Princeton Pulbication Notice on Paul's Death
Paul E. Sigmund, husband of the former Princeton Borough mayor Barbara Sigmund, died this morning at the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro due to complications from pneumonia, family friends confirmed. He was 85.
Sigmund was a professor of politics at Princeton University. His scholarship focused on political theory and comparative politics. He wrote numerous books and articles on Latin American politics with a focus on income inequality, multinationals and the military. He is the author of “The Ideologies of the Developing Nations”, “Natural Law in Political Thought, The Overthrow of Allende and the Politics of Chile, 1974-1976,” and “Liberation Theology at the Crossroads.” He was the translator and editor of the Norton Critical Edition of “St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics.” He also co-authored several other books.
He began teaching at Princeton in 1963 and helped found the school’s program in Latin American Studies. He served as the program director for seven years. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and the Institute for Advanced Study, and received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
He served on the boards of Georgetown University and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, and was an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2001 he was the first American academic to receive the Bernardo O’Higgins Order of Merit, awarded by the Chilean government for outstanding accomplishment.
Sigmund earned his doctorate from Harvard University, where he taught for four years before coming to Princeton. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University.
Hands Together loses an incredible friend and trustee
"Paul joined our board in 2006 and brought to us his remarkable compassion, love for the poor and profound understanding of the Church. I was humbled by his willingness to get on a bus and spend 4 hours traveling to Ithaca to speak at a Catholic parish on our behalf. When visiting Haiti, it seemed that he was the first one out of bed, and the last one to retire - his energy was incredible. We will never forget Paul." - Doug Campbell
Remembrance of Paul
From family, friends, colleagues, students, and all who were touched by the life of Paul E. Sigmund:
Stephen Sigmund -Paul's youngest son:
Princeton was so meaningful to him because he was a teacher throughout his life more than anything else, and this was a warm and welcoming community to him ...He was so grateful that he could teach to and learn from so many generations of Princeton students. After my mother died, he had a supportive intellectual community to help him. He was somebody who really wanted to talk to you about interesting things, talk to you about your life and share the learning experience. People walked away from a conversation with him knowing more and feeling better than they did walking into the conversation. He had students and professors living with him on the third floor of our house for 20 years after our mother died because he wanted people to have dinner with and have intellectual conversations with ...You never walked away from a conversation with him feeling like you were belittled or put down, but rather like you were listened to and heard.
click here for a pdf file with all the remembrances: Paul Sigmund Remembrances
"There are very few programs and even fewer schools dedicated to teaching and performing music. It's really hard to believe in a country so filled with artistic ability. Our dream is to build a school dedicated just to music, and develop the God-given talents of our students and the students in the Port-Au-Prince Archdiocesan schools. This school will provide the training and organizing of select students who demonstrate the talent and willingness to learn and perform music. Students from the Becky DeWine School and the dozens of diocesan middle and high schools shall be eligible for these programs. In the not too distant future we look forward to inviting musicians from the U.S. to come and mentor and perhaps even perform a school concert with our students!" says Doug Campbell, executive director of Hands Together.
Fr. Brillere Aupont, Port-au-Prince's Diocesan School Director, brought the idea of the Msgr. Benoit Music School to Fr. Tom and Doug Campbell in late October, explaining that the diocese secured the land and found teachers for the school but lacked the funding and sponsorship to make it happen. We offered to fund the project and join hands with the Archdiocese to bring music into the lives of our students.
"Music is a gift from God," says Fr. Tom. "It can do so much to heal divisions, to reduce conflict, to teach harmony and cooperation with one another. These are the greatest challenges that face our students and their families and we believe that music can be a great tool for combating jealousy, poor self esteem and discouragement. Music is hope."
Building the School
The school is located next to the St. Yves Parish on Delmas 5. The building contains 6 classrooms, offices, performance auditorium and large gathering spaces.
- Basic Constructions Cost: $127,000
- Wiring/lighting/electric/generator: $57,999
- Plumbing: $9800
Operating the School
Thanks to the hard work from Hayward Rigano, (an HT volunteer who visited Haiti with a delegation from Holy Family Parish in S. Pasadena), we've started collecting many of the musical instruments needed to equip the students. Here is a list of needed instruments:
Violins: 150 various sizes, 150 Viola Alto various sizes
Cellos: 90 (various sizes)
Contrebasses : 22
Guitars 90 (various sizes)
Harpe - 8
Piccolo - 20
Clarinette - 35
Flute - 35
Basoon - 25
Haute Bois - 25
Trumpet - 35
Trombone - 30
Saxophone 30 tenor, 30 alto, 30 soprano
Tuba - 25
Marimba - 4
Xylophone - 6
Bass drum - 10
Snare drum - 4
Timpani - 7
Cymbals - 6
Bariton - 15
Elicon - 12
Piano - electric, baby grand, uprights - 15
Staffing - a complete faculty would include over 40 teachers. We realize this may take some time to build, but we identified all the needed staff and appropriate wages. Monthly cost for full staffing, $30,000 x 8 months $240,000.
This video highlights Hands Together's school feeding made possible through the the generous funding from Mary's Meals.
We are pleased to introduce a new video that summarizes our projects in Haiti. We salute Karl Holtsnider, Dan Bruich, and Ken Buckowski for putting together this professional piece.