Janine Epere is a self-confessed dreamer, and with her work at women’s charity Destiny Haven
she is helping others dare to dream once again.
Together with husband Lewis, Janine founded Destiny Haven in 2007. Having both experienced and recovered from the devastation of drug and alcohol abuse in their own lives, Janine went on to earn Diplomas in Community Services Alcohol and Other Drugs as well as in Menthal Health. She also completed a Master of Counselling in her bid to help others.
After gaining practical experience in drug rehabilitation centres both in Australia and overseas, they were given the opportunity to pioneer what would become Destiny Haven, a place of healing and recovery for women whose lives have been shattered by addictions, eating disorders, self-harm, and trauma.
“When we first started, we had a dream; a dream to help women,” Janine reminisces. “Today we have eight full-time staff members and interns living on-site at our 42-acre property, all of them women who themselves completed the program at Destiny Haven.”
A unique approach
“The women in our program know that we are a not-for-profit and that we don’t receive government funding,” she says. “They pay a percentage of their Centrelink payment to contribute to their board, food and all the other amenities, including case management, one-on-one counselling and group therapy sessions.”
Without government funding, Janine and Lewis had to find creative ways to fund the residential treatment centre. In 2003, Janine spent months visiting rehabilitation centres in Australia and overseas to study their models and to research how they helped women.
“I discovered that there are very few women-only facilities in Australia and none (that I am aware of) that is a not-for-profit part-funded by a parallel business. This research led to us developing Destiny Haven’s unique model of a social enterprise,” she explains.
At the core of this model is the Diamond Collection, a range of products designed, created, marketed and sold, by the ‘Diamonds’, as the women in the Destiny Haven program are affectionately called. The Collection has evolved over almost 15 years and now provides more than a quarter of the charity’s annual income.
“Through participating in all aspects of the Diamond Collection social enterprise, from creating to packaging to selling, women are equipped with transferrable skills, enhancing their self-confidence and future employability,” Janine says.
Starting with humble beginnings, making jams and relishes with produce grown on the property, they soon added a range of melt-in-your mouth chocolate products.
“My brother’s employer is Australia’s sole importer of Callebaut Belgian Chocolate. We started by making small batches of Rocky Road and selling them from our reception area alongside the preserves. One of our Diamonds and I were having coffee at a café and noticed some blob of chocolate on a paddle-pop stick at the coffee station for sale. She exclaimed, “Ooh we can do better than that!” That is how our chocolate range developed.”
In 2014, a generous supporter paid for the installation of a commercial chocolate kitchen and Janine’s brother organised for the Diamonds and the Destiny Haven team to be trained at Kirsten Tibballs’ Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne. Often called Australia’s Queen of Chocolate, Kirsten’s chocolatier traning has ensured that quality training can be maintained and passed on.
Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Products from the Diamond Collection are available on buyHUNTER.com.au.