Last year’s report opened with the phrase, “We’re all in the same boat.” To maintain the metaphor, I would say that we are still in the boat and we have been riding on stormy seas in 2021, but through it all, we have experienced God’s protection and blessing.
Both 2020 and 2021 saw changes in the leadership of ACT. The Interim Leadership Team completed its mandate in March with the appointment of an Interim Country Director, Dr. Stephen (Steve) Green, who had previously served as General Director (2002-2009), and the establishment of a completely new team: Jared, Director of Finance, Hannah, Director of Human Resources and Administration and Julia, Director of Projects. This team has come together well and brings stability to ACT for the future. The administration is further strengthened with Dhouha, Finance Assistant, and Syrine, Office Manager. A further encouragement has been the appointment by the Board of a new International Director, Cathy Hine.
The Covid-19 pandemic has waxed and waned throughout the year bringing changes to working practice. It has been a universal experience of discovering that we have been able to maintain some normality by doing many meetings online. Indeed, it has enabled things that were not possible before, in attending different meetings on different continents in one day! While meeting online may be good for getting business done, it does not facilitate the networking and relationship building that is essential for good teamwork. We held our spring conference online but were delighted that the Covid situation and vaccination programme enabled us to meet together in person in November.
In 2021 we experienced the unforeseen departure of several staff, either through visa problems or personal circumstances. This had a destabilising effect and led to the curtailing of some project activities a few months ahead of a planned finish, and the stalling of consolidating work on the evaluation of our 2020 Strategy. This resulted in only two staff each in Gabès and El Kef, which is unsustainable in the long term. In addition, State regulation may limit the number of international staff we are able to have in country in the future. This has led to further strategic thinking about where ACT should be concentrating its activities. It also emphasises the rightness of the decision to appoint a Member Care Coordinator, Jude, as these incidents place extra stress and strain on staff.
2021 saw the conclusion of our collaboration with SIDA in its regional programme on Child Rights. This had been running for a number of years and has supported projects on Inclusion for People with Disabilities in Tunisia. This long-running collaboration concluded in December with a full evaluation by an external consultant and a celebration, which brought together almost one hundred people, including partners and beneficiaries. It was particularly rewarding to have a number of beneficiaries with disabilities and to hear their stories directly as they participated in the celebration. You can read more about the projects in this report.
The work done in training professionals in the family centres in Medenine, El Kef and Jendouba has been rewarding as we see how it brings a new dimension of understanding and approach to work with families in crisis and young people in trouble. Some of this work may have suffered from Covid restrictions, but we are impressed by the commitment of many people. Some key work has been done during this last year by Anne on the Theory of Change (ToC) which causes us to re-examine the way we work, our networks and where we should be focusing our energies in the light of advocating for sustainable change. We are sorry that Anne has been forced to leave us after 16 years service; she leaves an important legacy with us through this work.
A tough year, yes, but we are convinced that we are still called to live out our vision and values in Tunisia for the transformation of communities which are vulnerable and marginalised. How we do that may change, but the call and purpose remain the same.
May the Lord bless you as we journey on in challenging times.
Interim Country Director