FOR most people, fundraising an immense $1m and completing a monumental building project within a tight 12-month timeframe – and under budget – might seem like an impossible task.
Now imagine accomplishing that feat while also juggling a handful of other charitable causes, a successful business and the pressures of family life.
Yet that is precisely the achievements of Tanis Wake-Forbes, a woman known for her boundless energy as much as her altruistic nature.
When Tanis first decided to raise cash for a badly-needed children’s home for abused youngsters she knew it would be, at best, a challenge.
In addition to the global recession and the catastrophic cost of two devastating hurricanes, there would also be extremely limited funds available from plundered Government coffers.
But Tanis is clearly not one to be deterred.
A dedicated Rotarian – who rises daily at 5am to ensure enough hours in her day – she made the building of Provo Children’s Home (PCH) a number one priority for the philanthropic organisation.
With PCH’s former counterpart, Nissi House, badly damaged by Hurricane Ike and its 11 young inhabitants forced into temporary accommodation, Tanis knew she had to act fast.
After forming a build group of skilled and willing volunteers, she faced another battle in securing a prime piece of land in Chalk Sound – also a fight she won.
The original plan was to construct the home in two phases. But when the team realised just how many children in the Islands were in need, it propelled them on to finalise the works in one go.
Their mission: – to raise the funds within six months and have the building completed within another six.
“We said we had to start building by July and have it finished by Christmas.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy; we were going through the worst possible time to do it with the hurricane, the worst economic downturn in recent history and absolutely no funds available from Government,” Tanis says.
“Yet we managed to raise over half a million dollars ourselves with another half a million from a private benefactor at zero interest.
“We built it within six months and it even came in under budget at around $800,000, leaving us with enough to do some landscaping.
“It was an amazing project to do. We all felt so incredibly proud of the support we received from the entire community.
“From local businesses to schools, investors and tourists, everyone has been wonderful.
“I was so thrilled that we did it. It was the best Christmas I have ever had.”
At maximum capacity, the home will cater for a total of 26 children aged four to 16.
Tanis, part-owner of Grace Bay-based interior design firm Finishing Touch, now faces yet another uphill struggle raising the $20,000 a month needed to run the home when full.
Far from resting on her laurels, she has agreed to spearhead the fundraising efforts of a special advisory committee set up to assist.
And in order to make the home a success, she is appealing for volunteers to donate two hours a week of their time, any day between 3pm and 8pm, to spend time with the children.
“We are looking for people to help them with their homework, read a book, teach them a computer programme, how to bake or swim or even just take them to the beach.
“It’s about giving them a new point of view, making them think, challenging what they know and helping them understand there’s a big world out there that they can be a part of if they apply themselves.
“We have seen these kids turn totally around,” she says with a smile.
“People have been blown away by how much they have changed since moving into PCH and being in a safe and loving environment with dedicated caregivers.”
As head of Providenciales Rotary Club’s matching grants committee, Tanis was also responsible last year for raising funds for an air-conditioned, wheelchair-assisted van for senior citizens in Middle Caicos.
The vehicle has provided elderly residents with some welcome independence.
“The senior citizens absolutely love it. Many of them haven’t had the opportunity to go out much but now they can do their own banking and shopping.
“What they like most is getting to see friends and relatives that normally they can’t visit because of the distance.”
As if all that weren’t enough, Tanis has striven assiduously with setting up the TCI Tennis Federation (TCITF), a cause she says has been “near and dear to my heart for many years”.
As the official governing body for the sport, the group has been busy promoting tennis for schoolchildren as well as providing a facility for adults.
Physical education teachers at every state-run primary school in the country have been instructed, by TCITF members, how to teach children to play mini tennis.
The Federation has also stumped up the necessary equipment, such as mini rackets, special balls and lower nets, in addition to starting work on a national tennis centre in Venetian Road, Providenciales.
The eventual goal is for 10 lit and fenced courts with a two-storey club house and a dedicated mini tennis centre for youngsters. Federation members are also poised to train teachers at private primary schools – free of charge – before moving on to the high schools.
Establishing a national tennis centre to coach Islanders to international competition levels has long been Tanis’s dream.
“I have played tennis most of my life. It’s a sport for life; suitable for any age. It’s also a good team sport, is always enjoyable and teaches hand-eye coordination and a wonderful sense of etiquette.”
Canada-born Tanis said she was “touched and delighted” by the deluge of votes she received from the community.
“I share the honour very proudly and am absolutely delighted, not least because it allows me to bring more focus onto the charities I support.
“I would also like to say a big thank-you to Rotary which does so many wonderful projects. I am very proud to be a part of that.
“And also to the Weekly News for showcasing the community spirit we have here in the TCI. It just shows how, by working together, what a difference we can make.”
In the last two weeks, residents from across the country came forward in their droves to pay tribute to this much-loved Islander who has called the TCI home for the last 30 years.
They spoke highly of her “dedication, hard work, inspiration and energy” which would “continue to benefit the community for years to come”.
One said simply: “She is awesome, fun, driven and intelligent. And has a heart as big as a mansion.”