How microfinance can help rebuild a life in NZ
By: Rochelle Stewart-Allen, Senior Manager, New Zealand
When HOST International NZ first met with Khaled Al Jouja through ChangeMakers Resettled Forum, we were immediately impressed by his determination and commitment to build a market garden business in Wellington, New Zealand.
Since arriving in New Zealand from Syria with his family in 2016, Khaled has worked hard to turn his home garden into a budding enterprise. Growing a selection of flowers, fruit and vegetable seedlings and herbs, Khaled sells his produce at local fruit and vegetable markets.
Khaled has been ably supported through this start-up phase by Common Unity Project Aotearoa, a charity that initiates, umbrellas, partners and supports locally owned enterprises. Other people have also stepped in with assistance, including a community fundraising day at Common Unity in 2017.
When HOST NZ first met Khaled in 2017, we heard about his dream to expand his market garden into a thriving business that would fully support his family and help them settle into their new life in New Zealand. As someone who has recently arrived in New Zealand under the quota refugee system, Khaled was not in a position to obtain a bank or finance loan to expand his business despite being able to service a loan.
This is where HOST International NZ stepped in. In early 2018, we gave Khaled a microfinance loan.
Just before Christmas last year, I visited Khaled at his home in Lower Hutt. He showed me around his quarter acre section filled with two large greenhouses and thousands of plants. It was inspiring to see the amount of work Khaled had completed over the past 2-3 years, evident through the 2,000 plants and the multiple shelving units he had built to house the plants.
There was something for every backyard gardener keen to buy plants to expand their own garden.
Baby seedlings were starting to show their heads in pots in the warm glasshouses, while blooming roses, hydrangeas, fuchsia, azaleas and geranium were layered on shelves outside. As well as vegetable seedlings such as tomatoes, zucchini, capsicum and chilli plants, Khaled has also been growing herbs such as rosemary and parsley. His newest plantings included fruit tree seedlings such as plums, figs, lemons and limes.
With the HOST NZ microloan, Khaled was able to greatly increase the volume of plants he could grow by building a second glasshouse, expanding the number of pots he has, purchase more compost and fertiliser, and pay for the market fees so he can sell the plants.
But like all new businesses in their initial start-up phase, there have been personal and professional challenges to navigate and a number of challenges still exist.
Khaled is working on increasing more sales outlets to sell his plants and has a large amount of available stock ready to sell.
Khaled’s dream is to have a large plot of land where he can scale-up his nursery and build a thriving commercial business. This would be more in line with his family business in Syria where they farmed 600 olive trees, an apple orchard, and fruit and vegetables. A larger business would allow Khaled to employ others, including specialty expertise to help grow the nursery further.