If you’ve subscribed to our Honey Club, you’ll have opened your monthly box to find different types of raw honey plus some nice surprises inside, all bee or honey related. Some of these are beeswax wraps and beautiful beeswax candles –both have a story behind them.
They are made by a company called Meaningful Employment which employs young people and not-so young people e with disabilities, mental illness, physical and social disadvantages. It was set up in New Zealand by two fathers who were looking for meaningful employment (hence the name) for their children. Now well established, the company creates economic opportunities for people to build self-esteem, independence and self-belief; the foundations of wellness that most of us take for granted.
The company invests in the people they employ by spending time getting to know and understand them, working out what they can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t. They look for ways their capabilities can be strengthened and grown over time. They’re patient and flexible. Patient about the time a job can take, and the training that may be required. Flexible in working out how a job can be done and applying their people’s skills to the task. “We don’t judge.” Says Lesley who is married to founder Menno and whose sons Zach and Eli work there.
The wraps are made from pretty, patterned cloth which is coated in beeswax. These can be used to cover bowls or wrap around food as a sustainable, reusable and biodegradable alternative to cling film.
The candles also use natural, chemical-free beeswax from small, responsible beekeepers. It is made into strips that are embossed with honeycomb shapes and then wrapped around a natural wick. They make great presents and are safe to use in the home as they don’t release anything harmful into the atmosphere. Most candles are made of paraffin wax which, when burned, creates toxic, carcinogenic benzene and toluene, the same as those found in diesel fumes.
Cotton or paper wicks are harmless but some candles have some that contain heavy metals like lead which also burn off into the air.
Sustainability and high quality is very important to Mindful Employment and they partner with like-minded producers for these natural bee products and honey lozenges to send to Balqees and anywhere else in the world that likes their range and story.
They provide services in the locally in Wellington - home maintenance, renovations, landscaping, section-clearing and odd-jobs etc. - and are looking to expand further afield in New Zealand. Mindful Employment responds to what is needed in the community, rather than ‘make-work’.
Like any company, they sell their products and services for a profit; it’s important that they pay their employees a living wage. They reinvest 20% of their profits to create the next enterprise.
Founders Menno and Gary say, “Our products may take longer to make, and our services may take longer to deliver, but we don’t pass this cost on to our customers. This means that sometimes on some jobs with some people we don’t make a profit. Sometimes we’ll just cover costs. And that’s ok by us because we’re not a big corporation and we can balance these with jobs where we do make a fair profit. Our customers enjoy working with us because they’re helping enable self-esteem, independence and self-belief. We also do quality work (just check out our testimonials).
We’re owned and run by people who are the parents of children with disabilities and have had first-hand experience of the challenges of disability and mental illness. These challenges forge ME team members with immense resilience and fortitude. They have never given up and just needed a chance. A break.”
Lesley backs this up, “ME is about creating a place where people can contribute in their way.
ME is about community and caring. It’s about understanding the cost to New Zealand when 100,000 Kiwis hear the word “no” every day. When they hear they have nothing to offer. When they believe they have no reason to get up in the morning. When they sense their difference makes ‘normal’ people uncomfortable. This isn’t about Friends or Likes, or Followers or Selfies. This is about life in all its visceral forms. It’s face-to-face, personal and lived. We feel good seeing our team achieve. We have fun. We laugh. We do.
And we say yes. A lot.”
At Balqees we’re glad that we can buy such beautiful products for our Honey Club and, at the same time, contribute – even in a small way - to this company with such vision that’s making a real difference to peoples’ lives.
These pictures show Zach and Eli, Olivia, Henry and Fintan at work at Mindful Employment and selling the things they have made at a local farmers’ market.
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