Inspiring Southland students to overcome diversity

With a nation-wide lockdown, school closures and the evolving impacts of COVID-19, Southland students have had their fair share of unexpected change for the year.


To help students cope with this and find their own way post-lock-down, Great South has secured young Southland businesswoman Laura Douglas to host a series of inspirational talks with students across the region as part of its careers exploration programme, Southland Youth Futures.

Great South GM for Business Services Ben Lewis said given Laura’s strong advocacy for developing confidence in young people, her role as an Employer Excellence Partner for the Southland Youth Futures programme and her enthusiasm to share her own challenges, she was a perfect choice for the series.

“By addressing issues of confidence, anxiety and resilience, Laura will help Southland students to establish their own tools for dealing with unexpected change which will be of significant benefit to them with their training and future careers”

Laura herself is a walking example of resilience, determination and choosing to follow what you are passionate about.  Giving up a professional career in Auckland, Laura made the brave decision in 2016 to relocate to Kingston and establish an agritourism business which was based on her love of the land, animals and educating people.

Her business, Real Country, quickly became a must-do for visitors with tourist bus contracts booked every week to experience southern hospitality. Unfortunately, Laura was again forced to be brave when her business took a sudden ‘nose-dive’ because of COVID-19.

Mr Lewis said Laura’s story would inspire students to never give up and while it was largely focused on responding to the impacts of COVID-19, it would also highlight the importance of developing your skillsets to respond to challenges and highlighted the career opportunities associated with the agriculture sector.

The series of inspirational talks have been coordinated by Great South’s Southland Youth Futures programme which focuses on developing pre-employment skills and career exploration opportunities for Southland youth.

The first event of the series will be held at Northern Southland College on 28 August 2020 and will be filmed by Country Calendar who are profiling Laura’s story and her recent change of focus in her business which includes the emergence of female-only, practical farm training course through the newly-established  Fairlight Foundation.

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