my name is Kevin Milstein and I run a football (soccer) foundation named after my late son Reagan Milstein.
How does a foundation involved with football go into a project that involves growing in the South Pacific? Quite simply, the two are inexorably linked.
When the Reagan Milstein Foundation (RMF) started up, the first nation that we went to in order to deliver football gear to was the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. The Pacific island nations all seem very pristine and idyllic but they hide an unknown fact and that is a poverty of resources. What they all desperately lack are the general resources that we in the West take for granted.
Since 2011 we have dispatched a number of donations of football gear to over 20 countries all over the world but mostly to the delightful Kingdom of Tonga. Having donated so much to Tonga it was about time that I paid them a visit to see what impact RMF is making and also to talk to our RMF ambassador for the South Pacific based in Tonga, Mr Lui Muavesi.
It was in March 2015 when I visited Tonga that I was delighted to see what a difference RMF had made to the people of Tonga. Lui invited me for a Sunday umu or hangi or luau and as we sat there munching away on our delicious meal Lui proceeded to tell me of the issue of obesity in Tonga.
The Wellness Pacific Project -The Story
When I asked why it was such an issue he told me that there was a distinct lack of fresh vegetables on the island, in fact everything had to be imported from outside and came in a very poor state, tasteless and unappetising.
I was stunned. I looked around to see an abundance of land, sunshine and water and asked why no one was growing fresh vegetables in Tonga. Lui told me that many people have lost the connection to the sustainable growing of vegetables. That’s where the Wellness Pacific Project was born, right there on a beach in Tonga.
I have now brought on board Lui and a good friend of mine and highly experienced horticulturalist, Don Cross from Blenheim, New Zealand, to put this project together and give it life.
At first the idea was to work directly with Tongans and then spread the word throughout the Pacific but what has evolved is also a need to work together with islander workers that come to New Zealand to supplement their income. Once those courses have been refined then we can take it back to the islands.
Don has now brought in one of his colleagues, Deedee Bancroft, and together they have identified projects that we believe will benefit communities across the South Pacific.
I hope that we can change lives in the South Pacific over time and that you can join us on the journey, either online or physically or even by donating to the cause.
Even if we change just one life it will become a ripple effect and then it would have all been worth that umu on a beach in Tonga in March 2015.
Malo, Kevin Milstein
CEO, Reagan Milstein Foundation