The Admirals at the Helm
Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” and this is most evident in those who selflessly answer the call to serve with no personal gain as an incentive. This is especially true in the case of the individuals that have served Habitat for Humanity® Trinidad & Tobago as Chairman of the National Board of Directors.
From the conception stage and through its embryonic period Clive Pantin assumed the role of Chairman of the National Committee from 1995 to 1997. During this period he skillfully and lovingly cleared the path by inviting the Area Director for the Latin American & Caribbean of Habitat for Humanity, Steve Mickler, to Trinidad to assess our worthiness and start the process of establishing an affiliate organization.
Habitat for Humanity® Trinidad & Tobago was registered in 1997 and there was a handover of the National Committee to a formal Board of Directors. This warranted a Chairman to be elected and Pantin handed the reins to Francis O’Neal (at left, in this photo with classmates from Fatima College Class of 1975), whose expertise lay in the fields of Information Technology and Civil Engineering. His focus was largely centred on the building of the Habitat for Humanity® brand and sowing the seeds of faith, mission and mandate. He had the challenging task of staffing the organization and institutionalizing the many policies and structure requirements.
After Habitat had been properly formalized the baton of the chairmanship was passed on to the very capable hands of Mitra Attai whose forté lay in the field of Finance and Accounting. During his tenure, the local organization solidified its position as an NGO by the strengthening of the institution through greater staff and volunteer development; affiliate development and fundraising at the affiliate level. Given his background, he actively sought financial transparency and soon enlisted the services of the accounting firm of KPMG as Habitat’s external auditors and implemented the international Sun Accounting System Software to facilitate our internal accounts. He also intently pursued the then President of the Republic, His Excellency, Arthur N. Robinson, to act as patron of Habitat for Humanity® Trinidad & Tobago. Attai also led the expansion of the building of houses and the formation of national partners. At an international level, he presided over the country’s first Youth Build, held here in Trinidad in 2000 and attended by representatives from 13 countries, including the Latin American and Caribbean region and a contingent from the USA.
Mr Attai gave way to Chanka Seeterram in late 2000, another finance specialist and the longest-serving Board member in Habitat Trinidad- Tobago’s short existence. Seeteram’s tenure was largely characterized by the drive to become self-sustaining and widen the involvement of our volunteer base to engage as much of the corporate citizens of our island as its private citizens. He typified the diligence of the organization by steadfastly promoting its mission at every opportunity and headed the World Leaders Build in 2001 in Trinidad, attended by several key figures in the political landscape of the country, as well as the management of our multinational and local businesses. He instilled an aggressive determination to improve our efficiency in our core competency of construction and expand the scope of our services to assist more individuals.
Current Chairman Derwin Howell is a respected Caribbean financier and brings to Habitat Trinidad-Tobago a passion for good governance and donor engagement. Under his leadership, We have been able to expand and deepen our relationshi^s with major donors, while increasing public interest and financial contributions from individuals and small & medium enterprises.