Viva Tierra Organic has been nominated by Washington Vocational Services for an award from the Washington Sate Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment for its partnership with the Sedro-Woolley Adult Transition (SWAT) Program.
The company has participated in the program since its inception in 2009. Through SWAT, disabled young people are matched with employers so they can build skills, develop good work habits, identify vocational interests, set goals, and participate in work experience. Students participate in office tasks such as file destruction, shredding, alphabetizing, filing and stamping envelopes. Completing work tasks builds student confidence and strengthens social and communication skills. Viva Tierra provides guidance and interaction that helps the students develop their employment potential.
In addition to providing valuable work experience, Viva Tierra has donated office supplies, desks, tables, filing cabinets, and other items to a fundraiser to help purchase iPads for the SWAT students. This technology has allowed students to enhance their communication skills and provides additional learning tools.
Erin Long, Accounting Lead for Viva Tierra, has coordinated the company’s partnership with the SWAT program since the beginning. She also coordinated the company’s participation with Job Corps, a federal program which provided similar training opportunities to disadvantaged young people at the company’s offices.
“Working with the SWAT kids has been wonderful,” says Long. “The enthusiasm the kids bring to their work is infectious. The growth we’ve seen in their skills and their confidence over their time in the program is extremely gratifying. We can really see the benefits of this program; not just for the kids and the community but also in the increased sensitivity in our staff for people with different abilities and needs. The kids inspire and teach us, as much or more as we teach them.”
Sustainability is a core value for Viva Tierra. The company has taken bold steps to lessen their impact on the earth, from using recyclable packaging to generating solar electricity on the roof of their offices. The company’s definition of sustainability also encompasses aspects of social responsibility and community development. “Our company and our growers believe strongly in the importance of sharing our bounty with those less fortunate than ourselves.” says company Sustainability Coordinator Addie Pobst. “Although it takes a bit of extra time and effort we all agree it’s worth it.”