In late 2016 Gill Bredl received an alarming text from a friend in Haiti asking for help.
“She told me there was an abandoned baby in a local hospital and she was dying from starvation,” says Bredl. “Being a mum myself, I just couldn’t turn the other way and assume that someone else would do something. Instead, I made this problem my own. I figured that feeding this one child would be feasible for me financially, so I sent money over – enough for this little girl to be fed for a whole year.”
Within a few days of her friend’s request, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti and hundreds of people were left desolate. The storm had catastrophic consequences for the communities. People were barely getting back on their feet following the major earthquake and droughts experienced in previous years.
“Helping that one little girl who was alone in hospital quickly grew into something much bigger,” she says. “I realised after this huge national disaster I was emotionally and morally invested in making a much bigger impact.”
After a few weeks of fundraising through friends and family, Bredl established Ten18 International, a charity that provided the structure around raising funds for the children of Haiti.
“We worked with trusted people on the ground who were enablers in getting food to the children who needed it most. We helped so many children over the months that followed, but I was always conscious that we couldn’t keep on asking people for money. We needed to raise funds in a more sustainable way so that we could ensure the money would continue to flow.”
Inspired by a love of tea (well, Bredl is originally from England!), she investigated ideas to launch a luxury loose-leaf tea brand that could raise the much-needed funds. “I was initially wanting to raise money for children in Haiti, however a local New Zealand news report revealed that children in New Zealand were going to school without lunches. I decided that we also needed to help children here too.”
She chose loose-leaf tea because she “was growing increasingly concerned about the chemical-laden teabags”. After many tea parties to test and sample multiple flavours, Charity Tea was born.
The tea, sourced ethically and packaged by Bredl and her team of volunteers, is sold online, at selected cafes and shops around the country, and more recently from a dedicated shop on Hibiscus Coast Highway in Orewa.
“I choose tea that is organically grown here in New Zealand. For those tea leaves that have to be sourced overseas, I find brokers who have solid relationships with their tea growers and pay fair wages.
“Every container of tea we sell provides a meal for a child in Haiti (through our feeding programmes) or a school lunch for a child in New Zealand.”
At the time of writing, Charity Tea funded more than 600 meals every month, but Bredl has high hopes for increasing this. She is also mindful that tackling child hunger is not a one-woman job.
“There is a major problem here on our doorstep and families are struggling. The Salvation Army reported providing 15,000 food parcels in 2017. Just one year later, this had doubled to 30,000. I recently attended a meeting around zero hunger in New Zealand. It’s clear that our country’s current strategy is not working and something needs to change.
“It’s my mission that every child in New Zealand will go to school with a packed lunch and be able to access education without being distracted by hunger. We’re looking for businesses to choose social enterprise initiatives for their supply chain, wholesalers who would like to stock our tea and volunteers for our values-based work skills programme to help them go on to access employment.
“Businesses can make a difference by adding social enterprise to their supply chain, and without spending further money. For example, if a business decided to add Charity Tea to their staff room and ordered 1kg of tea per month we could provide up to 30 meals for hungry children.”