In 1996, Tom Counts, his wife Linda and their daughter, Tami went to Haiti as missionaries. Tom was a retired Methodist minister from Kansas; Linda had run a beef farm, managed a restaurant and had been a hospital dietitian. They set up a guesthouse for mission teams and missionaries coming to or passing through Port-au-Prince.
Tom and Linda noticed that there were many children dressed in rags and barefooted playing in the street in front of the guesthouse. They also realized that many of the children’s parents had no jobs and no way to buy proper food for their families. They felt that the Lord was leading them to do a “Head Start” pre-kindergarten program.
A young Haitian woman who spoke English was hired and she taught them the alphabet, numbers, colors, Bible stories, nursery rhymes and Christian children’s songs. Tom and Linda started the school with 12 barefoot, four and five year old poor children from the neighborhood streets. The next year, Tom and Linda raised money to send the first students to a Haitian school and took 12 more four and five year olds for the “Head Start” program to be held under the guesthouse carport.
The Lord showed them that their first students were not progressing in the Haitian school. They rented a house for the school nearby, hired another Haitian teacher and began the TLC Barefoot School.
Sponsor funds were raised from individuals and churches that Tom and Linda knew. All classes were taught in English because they felt that knowing English along with the Haitian language of Creole and French would help them find employment. They realized that hungry children could not learn so they started feeding breakfast and lunch each day. TLC originally stood for “Tom and Linda Counts” and “Tender Loving Care”, but is now “The Lord’s Children”. Each year the school became larger so they started looking for someone to help.
Dottie Diehl was on a mission trip to the Haitian countryside and came to Port-au-Prince on business. She had car trouble, so she stayed at Tom and Linda’s guesthouse. Fortunately, after Dottie arrived, Linda and Dottie talked about the school’s work and future. Linda selected Dorothy (Dottie) Diehl to help run the TLC School with her. A few weeks later, as Linda was sitting at her desk teaching, she had a massive heart attack and died. After much prayer and soul searching, Tom and others renewed their belief that the school was the work of the Lord and that it should continue.
God’s timing is never early or late. Dottie ran the school in Haiti for 10 years and trained a young Haitian man, Mr. Nickson Derosiers, to take her place. Dottie remains on the Board of TLC but now resides in Florida. Mr. Nickson is the Director/Principal of the school.