‘Impact Education Programme’ empowers RSE workers with post-Covid business skills

About a dozen Vanuatuan women visited Selmes Garden Centre on Friday.

A programme tailored to ni-Vanuatu women on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme is giving them the skills to adapt their businesses to a post-Covid world.

Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose, an organisation designed to empower women through education, has designed a programme based on the needs, skills and passions of women in Marlborough on the RSE scheme.

On Friday, around a dozen women were given a tour of the nursery at Selmes Garden Centre by Trust Chairman David Robinson.

Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose founder Catherine van der Meulen said the ‘Impact Education Programme’, had held workshops over the past six weeks, focusing on skills the women could take back to their own communities and businesses in Vanuatu.

“We took what they were currently educated in, what they wanted to be educated in, what their passions were, what their interests were, what their community needs were and what their social issues were,” she said.

They had done classroom-style workshops such as financial literacy and forecasting, but were also provided hands-on experience.

“One of the big things that came out was that they love to grow plants, and they love to grow food,” she said.

“This is showing them around not only how you grow plants and what fruits and vegetables they can actually be growing, but also how they can create a business out of doing something that they love.”

Entrepreneurial women with purpose founder Catherine van der Meulen said the programme had focused on what the women wanted to learn.

As a business that provided employment and training for people with disabilities, Selmes Garden Centre was also an example of how the women could use their businesses to address social issues within their communities, she said.

Many of the women had businesses of their own in Vanuatu, but some would have to pivot due to the loss of tourism from Covid-19.

“A lot of them already have [businesses] but what they really need to do is modify them to suit what the world needs right now,” van der Meulen said.

Alicia Albert, left, pictured with Cindy Metsa and Isabel Ronnie, had a business cultivated kava in Vanuatu.

“They needed tourism when they left, they don’t need it now.”

Isabel Ronnie operated a transport business for women back in Vanuatu, but was looking to change her business model when she returned, as there would no longer be tourists to transport.

“I’m thinking to change because from now on with the Covid, it’s too hard. Losing jobs and stuff so it’s better to change to something natural.”

“I’m thinking of the needs of the locals … just something natural.”

The tour was given by Selmes Trust Chairman David Robinson.

Alicia Albert also had a business growing and harvesting kava, a plant native to the Pacific Islands and commonly brewed into a social drink. She was looking to learn about new fruits and vegetables she could cultivate to expand her business.

Kathleen Kalo had a kava bar in Vanuatu and grew produce such as pineapple, bananas and sweet potatoes for her business.

She had been coming back to New Zealand on the RSE scheme since 2010, but this year was unsure when she could get back home, due to Covid travel restrictions.

“Normally we are thinking in September we can go back home but this time … we will just wait and see,” she said.