At the heart of Heilala are our people and Sela Latu has been managing Heilala’s Tongan operation for several years now. She works with vanilla farmers from all around the island and ensures a lot of tender love and care is put onto this delicate crop. Here is Sela’s story:
“We met John when he came to Tonga for a holiday. We invited him to have lunch with us every Sunday after church in Utungake.
When cyclone Waka hit in 2002, our roof was badly damaged and many houses in our village were destroyed. We were glad when John and the Rotary Club came to help fix and rebuild our houses. John paid for mine and my sisters school fees and we will never forget what he did for us.
My grandfather Laulillie Latu gave John a plot of land so he could plant a crop that would give people in our community a job. When John planted vanilla and started Heilala Vanilla, we knew our families would be together forever.
I am the manager of Heilala Vanilla in Tonga. I oversee working with and buying from vanilla farmers. Vanilla is a hard crop to grow and you must be patient and treat the plants with care. I am proud that my family can work with me at Heilala Vanilla.
My husband Rocky and I have three children and I am happy that while I work with Heilala Vanilla, my family will always be looked after. I always want to be able to give my children a good education.
With the money I earn, I can give my children a great education because I can pay their fees so they can go to school. Before Heilala Vanilla came to Tonga it was hard, we didn't have very much money, but now we know that they will provide us with a steady income.”
View our social impact statement HERE