Ryman Community News

Staff stories James Wattie

From drought stricken Ethiopia to sunny Hawkes Bay...

Written by Margot Boock
on March 03, 2021

Delve into Louise's background and you’ll find it’s no ordinary life the new sales assistant at James Wattie village has lived. And that’s just the way she likes it.
A resident of the small township of Clive, near Havelock North, Louise has worked in many Third World countries, the latest being Ethiopia where she and her partner Tim spent two years turning 1000ha of arid land in Tigre into a productive crop farm, exporting onions, butternut and sweet potato.

When they arrived there was no water, no sanitation, no power and no houses. People had died in this area in the millions and Live Aid was organised by Bob Geldorf to raise money for the famine and drought-stricken area.

They started with nothing, bringing in tractors from Italy and 14, 40ft containers of supplies over the dirt roads. Bores were dug and life-saving water emerged from the broken ground.
They had 400 staff from 11 nearby villages who didn’t speak English so many instructions were hand signals.
During those two years they built five houses, a pack house and cooling shed, roads and developed crops for export. “We loved it – boots and all,” says Louise.
“Up until then I had not lived remotely like that. The climate was beautiful. Until the monsoon arrived you could grow crops all year round. It was hot and my 'air conditioning' was water running over the roof and down the sides of the container where I worked! I planted my own vegetables in the ground below.
“Our little shed called Café Rendezvous completely disappeared in the monsoon.” Dust, sand and rainstorms had lifted it up and it was blown away completely.
“When our contract was over, we returned to New Zealand and thought – ‘what now?’”
“I love people, but I didn’t want to go back to working the long hours we’d been doing. When I saw the James Wattie advertisement for a sales assistant, I thought how nice, they have written this for me!

1012ab smallLouise enjoys the balance her new role as sales assistant offers.

“I enjoy meeting and greeting prospects and showing them the townhouses.
“It’s such a happy place here – the residents love it - there’s a big happy buzz going on.”
Louise enjoys the balance this job offers her. “It’s my time to give back here now, to my community, and to have time for myself, and my mother.
“At home I have a wee schnauzer who likes to ride on the back of my bike to the river for a run and a swim. We both get the exercise. And swimming is my relaxing time. “I love Hawkes Bay – the climate, the cycle tracks and the people – I couldn’t be happier.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,200 residents and the company employs 6,700 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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