By Reita Hutagalung, Global MBA student 2012-2013, Indonesia
What do you think when you hear of a vineyard? Well for me it’s related to glamour and the luxury industry. As part of our company visits, we went to a place called Fairhills. Turned out, Fairhills is a Fairtrade wine project that has a worker community. Its projects were very interesting as it aimed to help the wine workers to have better lives. Its business model is a mix of wine selling business and donations (to finance the community projects). The proceeds of the sales are used to finance the business operations and also part of the project operations. Fairhills project does not change the wine farmers’ operation and the part of profits would still go the same to the farmers, however there is little premium to the products that then used to benefit the wine workers. The project of Fairhills is like a cooperative where the workers take the initiative: they define priorities of the project and work together on the projects.
We visited two places after hearing the presentation of Fairhills’ business model. The first place that we visited was the baby and infants’ day care. The place hosts the workers’ babies and infants and provides a good and safe place for them to play and learn. Prof. Johann Burger, Stellenbosch’s Dean who had been accompanying us, told us about a baby who was born with an incapability to interact and learn, likely due to fetal alcohol syndrome. When first brought there, the baby couldn’t do anything on his own; however with therapy and treatment, he was one of the first to react to singing. We were very lucky to have the chance to hear them sing for us, and the children sang beautifully.
The next place that we visited was the primary school. The school was equipped with a computer center and library; it also hosts a place for babies who are sick to be treated intensively. Each of the classes were studying at the time of our visit, however we spotted a class that looked like they wanted to take a break. So after asking for permission from the teachers, we kidnapped the children from their study time to play with us (do not copy us please ;P). It’s funny to see these MBA students – us – forget our office suits and formality, and joyfully play with the children. As time was ticking away, we had to leave the place shortly. However, we would always remember the warmth in our hearts after meeting the children. Oh and of course, we left the place buying bottles and bottles of Fairtrade wines. Totsy!