A lifelong passion and a willingness to help those in need has seen former Woodford House student Vi Cottrell presented with a Tempus Award.
What started over 40 years ago as an overseas adventure with her husband Richard quickly grew into a successful organisation that has positively impacted the lives of disadvantaged communities.
Now one of the most notable fair trade businesses in New Zealand, Trade Aid sources handmade, fair trade products from about 65 trading partners, which represents thousands of small farmers and artisans in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Palestine and the Pacific.
As co-founder of the non-profit organisation, Mrs Cottrell has received numerous accolades, most notably a Queen's Service medal in 1994 and being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Mrs Cottrell, who was recognised at a ceremony on Saturday, flew in especially for the occasion and said it was an "honour."
"I'm humbled, especially looking at the people who have received the award before me. I haven't had contact with the school for quite some time, so I felt touched they noticed me.
"Trade Aid is a success story. This year, Trade Aid is set to retail $20 million. It has involved a huge team of people and I am just one of them."
The former student, who attended Woodford House as a boarder from 1955 to 1958, said during her time at the school she developed a strong sense of "good moral values".
"I also developed a love of learning, especially of reading, which has never left me. I was encouraged to go on to university which was a wonderful experience," Mrs Cottrell said.
She said that she "couldn't believe the development" since she had left.
"During my time, it was quite a cloistered and conservative school with 186 students. Now, it is open for day girls and the academic quality of the students at the school is amazing."
Prior to travelling to Northern India with her husband and two small children, and working with Tibetan refugees in a resettlement programme, Mrs Cottrell taught English and Social Studies at her former school.
"I came face-to-face with poverty and what it would mean to lose your homeland and the danger to your culture and personal sense of identity. I was incensed by the injustices suffered by small producers, especially women, at the hands of male traders and middlemen, and the gulf between rich and poor individuals and nations.
"Experiences with the people who make our products brought the realisation that illiterate and poor people have the wisdom and skills to provide for themselves and change their communities if they have the chance to earn an income, which is a fair reward for their work. These people have the same aspirations for their families that we do," Mrs Cottrell said.
President of the Woodford House Old Girls' Association, Mary Sherratt, said they were "honoured to host Vi Cottrell and celebrate her vision, work and commitment to making the world a better place through Trade Aid".
"The Tempus Award is presented to an Old Girl for outstanding achievement in her field. The criteria include sustained contribution by an Old Girl to a chosen field or career, with evidence of innovation and that the Old Girl has had external recognition from her peers and the wider community of New Zealand. We congratulate Vi on becoming the fourth recipient of the Woodford House Old Girls' Tempus Award," Ms Sherratt said.
At 76 years old, Mrs Cottrell wants the younger generation to know that while they live in a great country, they also need to be mindful of those who are less fortunate.
"Be aware of the inequalities in our society that are increasing each year, and in the world generally, and do your bit to fight them."
She also encourages youngsters to "keep an open mind and embrace opportunities when they come along - one may unexpectedly change your life" - just like the one that changed the her life all those years ago.