FIGHTING POVERTY IN PARADISE: A TRIBUTE TO FATHER STAN
NEW YORK (July 11, 2013) – This week I’d like to pay tribute to an impressive Australian gentleman who helped shaped my destiny and affected the lives of millions of souls around the world.
His name is Father Stanley William Hosie, a Marist priest, brilliant writer and founder of the development and humanitarian organization the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (which later became Counterpart International) who departed us at the ripe age of 91 last month at his California apartment.
I remember meeting Stan in New York some 14 years ago in the company of my friend and United Nations colleague Lelei LeLaulu to discuss the importance of communications to the nonprofit world. Within short order, I was working closely with Father Stan and Lelei to add the Caribbean flags to the dozens of countries in which Counterpart had channeled important development assistance.
Just before writing this column, I was on a conference call discussing plans for the 21st Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx) conference, and as I put pen to paper, it dawned on me that CMEx would not exist today were it not for the vision and generosity of Father Stan and those conversations in the warm summer months of 1999.
Father Stan, as he was affectionately known, was a Marist priest running a school in Australia when he was asked to write a book about the order’s work in the South Pacific and embarked on a three-month tour. He was appalled by what he saw on the islands, and shocked that people were worse off than they had been before World War II. He described it as “poverty in paradise.”
“There were almost no clinics or hospitals, and of course higher education – forget it,” Father Stan remembered in a 2010 interview. “One in a thousand people in Papua New Guinea at that stage was going to school. One in a thousand.”
The late Elizabeth Silverstein, a close friend and actress, described Father Stan as “imbibed with the problems of the South Pacific” when he returned from his travels and showed her and her husband Maurice slides of compassionate nuns nursing lepers.
Together, Father Stan and Silverstein created the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific in 1965 – the private volunteer organization that would eventually become Counterpart International with present and past programs in more than 60 countries “helping people help themselves”.
From these humble beginnings, the rest in history. Today, Counterpart has $60 million in annual program revenue and currently serves communities in 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Guatemala, Senegal and Ethiopia.
“We don’t go into problem nations to solve the problems. We go into developing nations to help the local people solve their own problems,” he said.
The loss of Father Stan is surreal. As my friend Ian Williams put it: “A real gentleman and one of the most pleasant and self-effacing people I had met.”
We corresponded last in February this year after he heard of the news of my grandmother’s passing. He said: “Dear Bevan: This is to let you know that I will be offering a Requiem Mass for your grandmother. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE. (Signed) Stan Hosie.”
Such was the measure of the man. Rest in peace Uncle Stan, you will be forever remembered.