05.11.2018 - Marg Armstrong is volunteering in Tonga as a Programme Adviser (Healthy Communities) with the Nishi Foundation. She is helping to coordinate the Mai e Nima project.

Mai e Nima means “Give me 5” a project which is a take-off of the “5+ a day fruit and vegetables” healthy eating campaign for Primary Schools in NZ.

Mai e Nima was initiated by the Nishi Trading Foundation - the community arm of Nishi Trading, which is a group of businesses whose prime focus is to “to help Tonga prosper.”

I have been based at the Nishi Trading Head office where I am made to feel part of the Nishi Trading community.

Lucy is the Quality Control Officer of the pack house. Her role is to manage the growers and all the produce which comes through for grading and packing for export. It is a very responsible role with strict Health and Safety guidelines: produce is exported to New Zealand using HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Food Safety regulations.

Lucy also runs growers meetings, where growers will gather at the pack house or out at the farm, for a discussion group. Here they discuss the standards and expectations to reach to be able to export their crops.

I have seen Lucy in action and she has no problem telling the growers firmly, of the quality required to export products, balanced with the higher returns from export dollars compared to the local market.

Cyclone Gita arrived on February 12. Lucy and her family of five children, an elderly mother and several well-loved dogs, had their house destroyed by the cyclone. They lived on family land in the village of Ha’alalo.

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The family with their beloved dogs

They were homeless and spent the next two weeks living in the local church. Through the help of MORDI (Mainstreaming of Rural Development Innovation, another VSA partner), a tent was organised for Lucy and her family to move into.

Eight months later, through a combination of efforts from Mordi, Nishi Trading, local electrical and plumbing contractors and Jones Industries who were suppliers of some materials, Lucy and her family moved into her beautiful house!


The house destroyed by the cyclone

home for 8 months

Lucy's temporary house for eight months

Lucy says her life is “blessed”! She is a Catholic, and goes to church every Sunday to say thank you for how lucky she is.

Every day, she arrives at work beautifully groomed, ready to face her day. She is fortunate to be able to walk to work, as her village is the neighbouring village to Utulau where the Nishi Trading pack house is situated. Before this job, she used to work in town and had to rely on buses, which made a really long day for her. Now she works close by and does not need to suffer the anxiety of trying to get home in good time to look out for her children. Utulau is out in the country, approximately 17 km from the town centre.

lucys house
Lucy's new house

Lucy describes herself as a “protective mother”, who considers herself to be so lucky to have a beautiful family and be able to share them with her own mother who lost all her children except Lucy - who ended up growing up as an only child.

I feel very fortunate to have met Lucy to gain an insight into her life. I share the excitement and happiness of her moving into her new house with her family.

happy to be in a home

The family is happy to be in their home


Lucy and her family are featured in this OneNews report: