St Joseph’s African Aid was founded in 2001 by 2 members of the English Region of the Josephites. Two more Josephites who had lived and worked in the Congo joined SJAA and a board of Trustees was established. There were only 4 Trustees at the time; all of them Josephites. While the aims and objectives were clearly defined in the official declaration of Trust made on the 9th of July 2001, the 4 Josephite Trustees had little idea as to how the newly founded charity would develop. After a modest start it was clear that SJAA needed to add lay members to the Board of Trustees.
In autumn of 2004 Neil Twist agreed to join the Board after an approach to him made by the then Chairman. Neil was a former pupil a later chairman of Governors of St George’s College and brought to the board exactly the qualities and the business experience the charity need as it started to develop and increase its charitable donations. This short tribute is only the tip of the iceberg when listing Neil’s contribution to SJAA during his years as a Trustee.
Neil attended his first Board meeting in January 2005. As a chartered accountant he soon saw that with the increase in donations SJAA needed a better financial administration and agreed to become its financial director in September 2005. For the next 16 years he provided SJAA with a financial management which was second to none. His meticulous accounting and his insistence on proper accounts from those managing the projects SJAA had financed in Africa ensured that virtually no money sent to Africa remained unaccounted for.
An annual audit of our accounts ensured the transparency of SJAA’s financial dealings. Neil was always aware that donations made to the Charity were given in trust and the Trustees were at the service of their donors. It was the task of the Trustees to ensure that donations were well spent. It must be remembered that throughout this time there were regular reports of misappropriation of funds by charities. In the 16 years of his financial management Neil was able not only to win over the trust of donors and provide Trustees with the certain knowledge that the Charity was operating on a secure financial foundation.
Neil’s financial reports to Trustees, unlike those of some financial experts, were clear and easy to understand. Most important of all each report gave clear guidance on the amount of money available to be spent on projects. There were usually more projects on the table for consideration than funds to finance them. His guidance was invaluable in the selection of projects to be financed.
For 16 years Neil has placed his professional expertise at the service of SJAA. Hours of tireless unpaid work are a witness to his concern for Africa and his determination that the money given by donors was used “to make a difference.” It would be wrong to give the impression that Neil was just a number cruncher. He visited the D.R.Congo and Belgium so as to better acquaint himself with the work of the Josephites outside of England.
Since 2005 the Charity has grown in a way that the 4 original founders could only have dreamed of. Today SJAA is a small but effective charity as attested by the many successful project reports to be found in the annual newsletter. Neil has been one of the chief architects of this success.