Social Enterprise finds career pathways for the disabled

Social Enterprise finds career pathways for the disabled

Supplied Content
Auckland, October 15, 2019

Graeme Haddon and Eric Chuah with Bakers of the Cookie Project (Picture from Website)

A Social enterprise has been working with communities to find employment for people with a disability.

Established last year (2018) by Graeme Haddon and Eric Chuah, the enterprise, called, ‘The Cookie Project’ just does that- make cookies employing people who otherwise find it difficult to get jobs because of their disability.

They said that the employment rate for people with a disability is low in New Zealand at only 23%, compared to the employment rate of 68% for those who are non-disabled.

The Cookie Project helps New Zealanders with disabilities understand their own value, and every employee is paid at least the minimum wage.

No CVs or Interviews

The founders do not ask for CVs or conduct interviews with prospective bakers as they believe that all Kiwis with any disability are employable.

The Cookie Project, officially launched at ANZ Migrant Expo on June 18, 2018, currently employs more than 30 bakers and its wait list of bakers is growing by the day, with more than 50 Kiwis wanting a job.

According to Stats NZ, one in four  New Zealanders  have a disability and about 250,000 capable people are desperately looking for employment.

“We are leading New Zealand with our inclusive employment framework for the disability community by having a pan-disability recruitment policy. All our cookies are handmade at the Eat My Lunch Kitchen, using only the finest Kiwi ingredients like Lewis Road Creamery butter. Therefore, we know that you will love the taste as much as the purpose behind it,” Mr Haddon and Mr Chuah said.

About Graeme Haddon

Graeme Haddon has been looking after disadvantaged and disabled youth for over 15 years in various ways. In 2006, he and Chris started Te Hau Kainga Charitable Trust in Hamilton, with the purpose of helping youths with behavioural and offending problems.

In 2007, fate introduced three children to Graeme and Chris. Their unconditional love was so radiant that just before the children’s grandmother passed away, she had a dying wish that both Graeme and Chris adopt the children full time at home.

So in 2012, they moved in to live with Graeme and Chris. Sadly, Chris passed away in 2016 and Graeme has been looking after the children on his own.

About Eric Chuah

Eric Chuah was born in Ipoh, a small mining town in Malaysia.

He comes from a family line of migrants and grew up with the stories of how tough life was for his parents and grandparents – war, poverty and lack of education.

In the 1950s, Mr Chuah’s parents had to sell cakes and cookies after school to help make a living for the family.

Their struggle fuelled him to succeed in life and made sure that he broke the cycle through education. He studied hard and worked even harder during his early banking career.

He was one of the youngest expatriates working in the banking sector and was fortunate to experience life in eight different countries across Asia and Australia.

In 2013, he arrived in New Zealand as Head of Migrant Banking ANZ, the country’s largest bank. Four years later, he decided to leave the corporate world and start his first social enterprise to help community groups and those in less fortunate positions.

Cookie Project Facts

“At Cookie Project, we have generated over 850 hours of paid employment at minimum wage of $17.70 an hour. We have received an average score of 8.5 out of 10 for happiness levels from people with disabilities. We have received an average score of 8.5 out of 10 for happiness levels from the people with disabilities. We have received 9 out of 10 for sense of belonging from people with disabilities,” he said.

Mr Haddon said that the Project is breaking down social stigma about the disability community because eight out of ten volunteers have not worked with people with disabilities prior to coming to their kitchen.

“Have you ever wondered who actually baked our delicious cookies when you’re enjoying them? With the new product packaging, we are bringing product traceability to life for the first time in New Zealand. All our bakers have chosen to participate in our ‘Who’s Your Baker’ Programme and will have their own personalised QR Code sticker that they stick onto the packaging at the end of each baking session,” Mr Chuah said.

Mr Haddon added, “Now, when you use your smartphone and scan the QR Code, you will learn more about the actual person who baked your cookies. You can also leave your baker a message of support, encouragement or even request them to bake your next batch of cookies. If you are an employer, you can check out our awesome bakers and get in touch with them for employment opportunities in your company. We are also making disability easier to understand by grouping them into four categories that are represented by different colours. You’ll see these colours on our baker’s QR code stickers.”


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