Top honour for Koha Kai

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“We are just over the moon. It is absolutely rewarding for the [trainees],” Koha Kai project lead Janice Lee said.

“There were 25 teams and every one of them was a supreme winner of their region. It was a really humbling experience.”

The social enterprise charity gives people with disabilities the opportunity to learn hospitality and horticultural skills, by preparing lunches for school children in low-decile schools in Invercargill.

“We are taking people who have been really high users of social services and creating a situation where they can offer support to others,” Mrs Lee said.

Koha Kai garden project co-ordinator Nicole McKnight said working with Koha Kai gave the workers a sense of purpose. The award was recognition of their hard work and showed them their work was appreciated.

Trustpower community relations co-ordinator Suzi Luff said Koha Kai’s model was effective, transferable and life-changing.

“They are creating a pathway to employment for people disadvantaged by disability to enable true integration into their local community, all through the love of kai.”

Koha Kai received a custom-made trophy, a framed certificate, $4000 in prizemoney and a $1000 voucher from Exult, which provides training and development for the community sector.

Mrs McKnight said their aim now was to prove the model was sustainable and then develop a template for the programme to be rolled out nationwide.

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