Dereck Springer : A man of the time, in the time and for the time

By Eddie Greene.-

Mr. Dereck Springer’s tenure as Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV (PANCAP) ends on February  28, while this blog is being distributed. This is a slightly modified tribute delivered at the 37th meeting of CARICOM’s Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in Washington DC on September 28, 2019 . I have been closely associated with PANCAP from its inception in 2001 and was  Advisor to PANCAP during Dereck’s tenure as Director. I feel obliged to share this tribute to a creative and outstanding leader.

When Dereck announced  over one year ago that he would not renew his contract as Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV AIDS (PANCAP) every level of the partnership persuaded him — indeed begged him — to reconsider . Some even engaged in soft diplomacy which went something like this   “Dereck man! just give us one more year”. Faith leaders prayed that spiritual redemption will change his mind and the youth pleaded for his continued mentorship. Nothing worked. No power on earth or the Holy Spirit for that matter could change his mind. A Jamaican colleague in frustration confessed  “Dat man Dereck, he like the rock of Gibraltar: ‘to raw-tin’- him stand firm”

But this should come as no surprise for those of us who came to know him professionally. The keywords from the many tributes attest to this:

  • Resolute in purpose,
  • Meticulous in preparation
  • Decisive in taking action
  • Scrupulously punctual,
  • Dependably disciplined
  • Passionately committed
  • Undaunted by challenges
  • Articulate in advocacy
  • Champion of the vulnerable
  • Creative in leadership
  • No duplicity in words or actions

These are not just platitudes nor lyrics They  truly characterize Dereck as a man of the time, in the time and for the time

As a man of the time,  he came to the leadership of PANCAP at a difficult period  when sources of external funding for the AIDS response were  drying up ; when making the case for the Caribbean deemed as middle and upper income countries could no longer easily yield concessional funding; when complacency for the AIDS response was  increasing and political will declining in the face of so many competing demands; and when the PANCAP Coordinating Unit (PCU) Staff was being depleted as a result of these cumulative tendencies. Yet Dereck remained undaunted: ever seeking new ways to overcome the challenges and in the process, molding the PCU into one of the most efficient and effective units within CARICOM

He was man in the time.  When faint hearts would have succumbed, He remained optimistic : reformulating the scope and substance of the partnership , repurposing its programmes and uplifting its morale toward greater inclusion. Among the innovations are webinars, knowledge for health , national and regional stakeholder consultations —all of which have contributed to collective leadership, a prerequisite for the sustainability of PANCAP after Dereck.

These together have also no doubt blunted the doom and gloom about the future of the partnership that prevailed when he assumed office

Dereck was a man of the time.  Not only has he been  aware of the need for PANCAP to change gear but also to find new expressions for galvanizing the various strands of the partnership weaving them into a cohesive web.  Its inter interlocking creed was to become Justice for All for which he so passionately advocates. It is universal yet indigenous. It illustrates the essence of how with common cause AIDS can truly be ended.

Besides being  of and in the time,  Dereck is a man  for the time. He came to the Directorship   with training and experience in public health,  counseling, social psychology, epidemiology and philanthropy. Small wonder he was able to establish the foundations for the changing times ahead: one in which PANCAP’s   stakeholders —parliamentarians , faith leaders, civil society, youth advocates, key populations and donor partners ofttimes with varying methods could adhere and contribute to the core value and common goals and programmes so adequately outlined in the Caribbean Regional Strategic Framework (CRSF) 2019-2025   This is a portrayal of the true legacy of Dereck’s inspiring leadership.

When combined with his growing reputation in the international theaters, especially on the Board of the Global Fund, it is my hope that his resounding assets will be available to and utilized for the benefit of the regional and Global struggles to achieve the targets of SDG #3 Good health and well-being in this aspiration, ending AIDS is one component of the  global integrated health agenda.

It has been my privilege to work with a colleague of Dereck’s ilk and to feel the vibrations of his sensibilities, sense of duty and concern for the vulnerable. Under his leadership we witnessed PANCAP’s maturity into the quintessential essence of functional cooperation. For  these transcendent qualities of being in the time , of the time and for the time, Dereck has taken PANCAP to soaring heights of achievements, respectability and honour. For all these reasons we celebrate his contribution to the region. Those within and outside the Caribbean Community with whom he engaged over these nine years will no doubt join PANCAP in  recording an ever inadequate appreciation to Dereck for his sterling service and also to his family for allowing us to consume so much of the time, talent and fortitude of this outstanding human being.

Eddie Greene