Fresh and packaged fruit supplier Dole New Zealand has teamed up with OKE - a local charity that provides Kiwi kids with the opportunity to learn valuable life skills by introducing productive school gardens - as its first foundation partner.
Through its ‘Growing a Future’ initiative, OKE builds gardens at South Auckland primary and intermediate schools – enabling children, teachers and the local community to grow healthy, sustainable fruit and vegetables.
Described as ‘outdoor classrooms,’ the gardens also empower these children and their wider communities to foster essential life skills, such as increased levels of self-esteem and a healthy, positive outlook on the future.
Founded in 2015, OKE Chief Go Getter (Founder) Paul Dickson originally planned to gift schools garden beds, however quickly realised a lot more tools were required to make these gardens a sustainable, ongoing prospect. The charity now provides schools with raised beds, a greenhouse, composting solutions, kid’s tools, irrigation and other essential resources; along with the education required to maintain them.
Dickson said that introducing productive gardens into schools is about more than just educating students on how to build a garden and grow veggies.
“Building these interactive outdoor classrooms allows kids and their teachers to use the space to teach a wide range of curriculums - from health and science, to art and language," said Dickson.
Dole New Zealand General Manager Steve Barton said teaming up with OKE as its first foundation partner aligns with Dole’s sustainable brand values, and commitment to investing and supporting local initiatives.
“We’re proud to support a local charity that’s doing good for the community and the environment. Our Kiwi kids are the next generation who will go on to look after the planet, so we’re very pleased to be investing in their education for the future.”
Alongside OKE, Dole New Zealand also supports the local sustainability efforts of the Motutapu Restoration Trust; an ecological restoration project designed to rebuild the natural and cultural landscapes of Motutapu Island. Funding helps with a kiwi release programme and habitat development for species like the Coromandel brown kiwi, takahe, and tieke (saddleback).
Using sponsor financial donations and voluntary labour at planting days, OKE has built gardens at 12 primary schools to date, giving over 6,000 kids from Papatoetoe, Otara, Manurewa, Weymouth and Wattle Downs a school garden to get growing.
Paul Dickson said sponsor support is integral to OKE’s success, with each Growing a Future project costing $10,000 to put together from start to finish, but there is no cost to the school.
“Each project requires a significant amount of investment – both in time and financial investment – so having the backing of partners such as Dole is really invaluable to us, and the kids that our work benefits.”
OKE has also built an interactive education app, set to be released in November this year. This week by week, season by season guide allows the charity to be there every step of the way; from building the foundations of the garden to using and maintaining it throughout the year.
With the help of Dole, OKE plans to continue implementing their ‘Growing A Future’ initiative into primary schools across South Auckland. By giving more schools the opportunity to learn life and social skills through gardening, young kids learn how to provide for themselves and their families, gain hands-on skills that may influencer a potential career, learn the financial skills of turning produce into profit, and ultimately provide a better place for everyone.