Vanilla venture leads to Tongan charity

Cyclone aid project develops pioneering export enterprise and now a charitable foundation.

An aid project 10 years ago to rebuild a Tongan village after a cyclone resulted in a pioneering vanilla-growing enterprise and now a charitable foundation.

The Heilala Vanilla Foundation will benefit the island community of Vava’u, director Jennifer Boggiss says.

“Heilala was established on the principles of fair trade. We support livelihoods and the people of Vava’u are an integral part of our business. 

“Because the island is quite remote and access to educational resources and equipment can be limited, the foundation aims to offer practical assistance in the key areas of education and health.”

Heilala will contribute a percentage of sales and the first official project will be working with Vava’u High School.

The first department to benefit will be home economics, with the purchase of cookware, kitchen appliances and sewing equipment. The next project will be equipment and teaching materials for the science department.

Heilala’s first vanilla harvest in 2005 was 40kg. Last year it was nearly five tonnes, with products exported to six countries.