Welcome to the Heilala Vanilla Foundation
The partnership between Heilala Vanilla and the people of Vava’u started as an aid project over ten years ago with various building projects on the island that followed after a cyclone. This initial act of kindness by HV founder John Ross, eventually led to the founding of Heilala Vanilla.
Heilala was established on the principles of fair trade; supporting livelihoods and the people of Vava’u are an integral part of the business. Due to the remoteness of the island and its lack of access to resources and equipment, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation will offer real solutions and be life-changing for the people of Vava’u.
Sofaia Latu, from Tonga, (L) and Jennifer Boggiss at Heilala Vanilla’s premises in Tauranga. A partnership with the Latu family was formed 10 years ago to create Heilala Vanilla. Members of the Latu family regularly travel to New Zealand and stay with Jennifer and her family to learn more about the production side of the business.
In 2015 the Heilala Vanilla Foundation sponsored a member of the Latu Family, Sofaia Latu, to spend three months in New Zealand with the Heilala team. Sofaia had never left Tonga before so the trip to New Zealand was eagerly anticipated. The experience of spending three months living with Jennifer and her family along with working at Heilala Vanilla in dispatch and production allowed Sofaia to get an appreciation for the manufacturing and marketing side of the Heilala business which she could share with family member’s once back in Vava’u. While in New Zealand, the Heilala Vanilla Foundation also sponsored Sofaia to attend a 5 day leadership course with Rotary New Zealand. In addition the funds that Sofaia earnt while working at Heilala in New Zealand allowed her family to purchase their first car.
Home Economics Equipment
Following the launch of the Heilala Vanilla Foundation in April 2013 the principal of Vava’u High School, Sela Tapaatoutai-Teisina, identified the Home Economics Department as the first priority for equipment and teaching materials.
Jennifer Boggiss, Heilala Vanilla co-founder and Director, says due to the remoteness of the Vava’u Islands, access to educational resources and equipment can be limited.
“One of the foundation’s aims is to give students the opportunity to learn more about food preparation and nutrition,” she says. “We have worked closely with Principal Sela Tapaatoutai-Teisina for several months to identify and compile a list of equipment needed for Home Economics Department which included cookware and kitchen appliances.”
The first shipment of equipment from the Heilala Vanilla Foundation arrived at Vava’u High School in February to an excited and overwhelming response.
Jennifer says establishing the foundation demonstrates Heilala Vanilla’s commitment to the people of Vava’u and says this shipment is the first of many.
“We are very happy to have completed our first project with Vava’u High School. Home Economics has a great synergy with Heilala Vanilla and we see the incredible importance of working with young people in Tonga.”
The foundation’s next project will be equipment and teaching materials for the school’s science department.