Trade Aid founder honoured
By Astrid Austin
A lifelong passion and a willingness to help those in need have seen former Woodford House student and Trade Aid co-founder Vi Cottrell presented with a Tempus Award.
What started more than 40 years ago as an overseas adventure with her husband Richard quickly grew into a successful organisation that has positively impacted the lives of disadvantaged communities.
Now one of the most notable fair trade businesses in New Zealand, Trade Aid sources handmade, fair trade products from about 65 trading partners, which represents thousands of small farmers and artisans in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Palestine and the Pacific.
As co-founder, Mrs Cottrell has received numerous accolades, most notably a Queen’s Service medal in 1994 and being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Mrs Cottrell was recognised at a ceremony on Saturday and flew in especially for the occasion, saying it was an “honour”.
“I’m humbled, especially looking at the people who have received the award before me. I haven’t had contact with the school for quite some time, so I felt touched they noticed me.
“Trade Aid is a success story. This year, Trade Aid is set to retail $20 million. It has involved a huge team of people and I am just one of them.” The former student, who attended Woodford House as a boarder from 1955 to 1958, said during her time at the school she developed a strong sense of “good moral values”.
“I also developed a love of learning, especially of reading, which has never left me. I was encouraged to go on to university which was a wonderful experience,” Mrs Cottrell said.
“During my time, it was quite a cloistered and conservative school with 186 students. Now, it is open for day girls and the academic quality of the students at the school is amazing.” Prior to travelling to northern India with her husband and two small children, and working with Tibetan refugees in a resettlement programme, Mrs Cottrell taught English and social studies at Woodford. In India she “came face-to-face with poverty and what it would mean to lose your homeland and the danger to your culture and personal sense of identity. I was incensed by the injustices suffered by small producers, especially women, at the hands of male traders and middlemen, and the gulf between rich and poor individuals and nations.”
President of the Woodford House Old Girls’ Association, Mary Sherratt, said they were “honoured to host Vi Cottrell and celebrate her vision, work and commitment to making the world a better place through Trade Aid”.