Wartime Women Working the Land Sows a Scholarship Seed

Alison Bevin
  • Hawke’s Bay Foundation donor Alison Bevin.

There aren’t many places in the world Alison Bevin hasn’t seen or been. Ten years spent living on the largest private residential ship on the planet will do that, but reflecting on her experiences visiting some of the most off-the-beaten track wonders of the world has seen Alison return to the adage “charity begins at home.”

As a result of the pandemic and forced to ‘drop anchor’ back home in New Zealand, Alison got to thinking about her philanthropic wishes. Inspired by the story of Napier couple Diana and Colin Crombie who’ve been offering tertiary scholarships to local students, Alison recently decided to launch her own scholarship fund through Hawke’s Bay Foundation. Launching next year, the Alison Bevin Scholarship Fund will provide an annual scholarship for one local female student to attend Lincoln University to study agriculture, horticulture and viticulture. Through Hawke’s Bay Foundation, Alison has seeded the fund with $100,000 and hopes that in time it will grow to $1M with students fully funded to Bachelor level.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in education and an urge to one day help open the doors for females in less traditional female roles. Hawke’s Bay was built on old fashioned farming and orcharding practices, and sits among the best producers in the world for making great wine. There are amazing career paths available here in the areas of agriculture, horticulture and viticulture for young women and they can be every bit as successful as males.

“I chose Lincoln because it remains New Zealand’s specialist agriculturally based university – not to mention my great uncle taught there pioneering the Land Girl Programme at the beginning of World War 2.”

Alison says it was his legacy equipping women with the skills necessary to run the land when their men had been sent off to war, that has inspired her in her own way, to continue his vision.

“Hawke’s Bay Foundation is building a community asset for the region for perpetuity, it’s not top heavy on admin, I like how you can direct exactly where you want your gift to go and history is showing the funding model works.”

Alison Bevin has always been charitable, but as she’s getting older, she’s putting ‘things in place’. When she turned 60, she insisted ‘no presents’, instead asked friends and family to donate money to Hawke’s Bay Hospice. She also supports Wellington’s Music Futures School and in the past has directed funds to African orphans of families grappling with AIDS.

With two sons now in their 50’s, two grandchildren and a life back on terra firma, Alison spends her spare time e-biking, walking and knitting (“preferably for small people rather than big people,”) and admits it’s a far cry from her previous life of transience.

“When I lived on the boat where I had my own apartment, I spent eight months of the year travelling. We had divers, biologists and many other experts in their field come onboard and give us tailored tours of places like Antarctica, Madagascar, the North Pole to name but a few. I met some fascinating people and did some incredible things. It was a privileged life but it wasn’t all drinking and dancing, I’m still ‘Queen of the mashed potatoes’!

“Those experiences did leave me though with a realisation that there is a huge divide between wealth and poverty and opportunity. Travelling highlighted for me not just the diversity out there but the divide.

“So in my own little way if I can provide an opportunity for somebody and look after one person with this scholarship and they do well, then three more people will benefit. It’s like the branch of a tree, because generosity grows and with a vehicle like Hawke’s Bay Foundation giving can be targeted and collective. I think that’s a legacy worth leaving.”