about us

A group of former South Auckland kids and those with ties to the community has set up The Rising Foundation to assist at-risk-youth to develop to their full potential.

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About Us

John Bongard ONZM CRSNZ
Board Chairman

Married to Diane
Children – Sam and Kate
Papakura High School – B Bursary
Bachelor of Commerce (BCom)
ex Auckland University Economics & Marketing (majors)

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit – ONZM, for Services to Business
Awarded in New Years Honours 2010

Distinguished Alumni Award – University of Auckland 2019

Companion of The Royal Society of New Zealand 2019

Business Career (Fisher & Paykel)

Joined Fisher & Paykel Ltd as purchasing cadet 1973
Group Purchasing Manager
Refrigeration Marketing Manager
General Manager Marketing Whiteware
General Manager Whiteware Group
Managing Director Fisher & Paykel
CEO & Managing Director Fisher & Paykel
Chairman Fisher & Paykel Finance
Retired September 2009

Other Interests

H J Asmuss & Co Director
Chairman South Auckland Partners BNZ
Counties Manukau Pacific Trust (Vodafone Events Centre) Deputy Chairman
WilliamsWarn Ltd Director
NARTA Australia Director
PSCTH Thailand Chairman
Northern Stars Netball Director
Sky City Auckland Community Trust Chairman
Totara Foundation Deputy Chairman

John Wardrop
Board Trustee

I’m John Wardrop and I’m a passionate believer in The Rising Foundation. I have been married to Annabell for 38 years and have two daughters, Amy and Sara.

Apart from a few years overseas on a working holiday with Annabell, I have called Papakura/Takanini home for all but the last 4 months of my 60 years. I did all of my schooling in Papakura and followed this up by completing a panelbeating apprenticeship and a stint making aluminium and steel joinery. All of my sporting and club interests have been South Auckland linked.

In 1979 I joined Fisher & Paykel Appliances as a Purchasing Officer  where I remained until I retired in 2009.   During my 30 years with the Company  I held various Senior Executive positions in Procurement, Logistics, Operations, Cost Out and HR. I am a Board Member of Worldskills NZ, an organisation that promotes trade and technical excellence for young adults.

I see The Rising as a vehicle that can  turn around some of the negative prejudices that go with being ‘South Auckland’ by giving at-risk-youth the chance to recognise and develop their positive potential.

Richard Jeffery ONZM
Board Trustee

Richard Jeffery was the founding CEO of Second Nature Charitable Trust established in 2000.

He is now a professional Company Director based in Central Hawkes Bay with his wife Michelle and still has an active involvement and passion for youth within South Auckland and further afield.

While at Second Nature Charitable Trust, he spearheaded raising of nearly $100 million to establish two community facilities in South Auckland, namely the Vodafone Events Centre which opened in 2000 that has since seen the delivery of some of New Zealand’s largest school and community programmes for more than four million people, and the Vector Wero Whitewater Park which opened in 2016. The Whitewater Park has provided youth programmes accessed by more than 11,000 school children and a world-class facility for elite athletes, including functioning as an international standard training ground for Canoe Slalom New Zealand. In his role as CEO he has established the largest free schools programme in New Zealand for the performing arts, which now attracts 36,000 students a year.

In 2010 he established his own private fund called the Rangahua Fund, which provided scholarships to young people to undertake social worker diplomas to help them serve their communities. Richard was founder and Chairman of the Manukau Arts Festival from 2008 to 2010.

In 2018 Queens Birthday Honours, Richard was awarded the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit – ONZM, for Services to Governance and Community.

Kay Spencer
Board Trustee

Kay is the Executive Chairman of buying group, NARTA, the National Association of Retail Traders of Australia.  An accomplished leader, Kay joined NARTA in 1998 after rising through the ranks at Sharp Corporation of Australia where she became the first female director in a Japanese company.  Kay also held the position of Sharp’s general manager – sales and marketing.

Under Kay’s leadership at NARTA, the organisation’s annual turnover has grown from $350 million to more than $3.4 billion.  Today NARTA is the largest buying group of independent retailers in Australia and New Zealand.

Although Kay now lives in Australia, she is a Kiwi by birth, born and grew up in Kakatahi, New Zealand.  Kay travels to NZ frequently, and regularly spends time with family in the Wanganui area.

Kay has experience within the not for profit sector, having been a director for Hands Across the Water since 2009. As an accomplished leader, Kay brings to The Rising Foundation her extensive knowledge of both the business and charity sectors, as well as compassion and care for the children.

Lady Sarah Fay
Board Trustee

I was introduced to the Rising through a meeting of the founders, John and Diane Bongard. I became involved with the Rising because I wished to help children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and who could possibly become some of our future leaders – at all levels and in all industries – and make a difference to their communities if given the opportunity.

I have spent most of the last year going to South Auckland on Tuesdays to attend the lunch time meetings of these children. I have also attended several of the camps run by the Programme Director.

I have come to know quite a few of the students in the programme and have seen massive changes in all of them. The camps are a key part of this organisation and I have seen these children change in the camp environment and show a deal of self respect, trust and become a good human being.

The Rising is about courage and giving these students the courage to change and being given a set of tools for life.
I love doing anything I can to help.
I am on the fund-raising committee.

Sam Bongard
Board Trustee

I grew up in Takanini and I’m a passionate South Aucklander. I went to Saint Kentigern College and went on to University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce with a double major in Economics and International Business. My business career has been in Appliance Retail, where I have been with several retailers in my career. I have held different roles that vary from a Salesperson Role, National Trainer Role, Department Manager Role and Store Manager Role. I am now with a company called Appliance Connexion that is the largest New Zealand independent cooperative buying group for Appliances and owner of the 1OO% Appliances brand. I hold the role of National Whiteware and Seasonal Product Buyer.

I want to be involved The Rising Foundation in any way I can, as I believe in the unique approach that works so well and how it is involved every day in the schools and communities, to help kids find their positive path in life.

Don Mann
TRF Trustee

Don Mann is one of five brothers born and raised in West Auckland. Don’s tribal links are Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa through his mother Elaine (nee Hema). Don is also of Tongan descent through his father Don Mann snr who emigrated to New Zealand from Vava’u in 1947.

Don lives in Auckland with his wife Louise and daughters Sarah & Olivia.

Don is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, a non-government organisation which develops and implements public/private sector economic development and socio-cultural initiatives across the Pacific region.

Don has over 35 years’ experience in leadership roles across the public and private sector including four years as Head of Commercial Partnerships at Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED). He is the former Commercial General Manager of the NZ Warriors NRL franchise and served 13 years with the NZ Police including seven years as a Detective with the Auckland Criminal Investigation Branch.

Don is a graduate of Massey University, a Certified Company Director and received numerous awards across business, sports administration, Policing and academia.

Diane Bongard

Diane is the Treasurer and is also on the fund-raising committee. She also assists our Programme Administrator in some of the administration work.

Alex Tarrant
General Manager

Alex Tarrant is the General Manager of The Rising Foundation and is responsible for supporting the team to guide their personal and professional development. Also continually improving the structure, processes and service provision to ensure that we give our very best to support the students, families, schools and communities we serve.

Alex is also responsible for integrating the excellent Gem Journey Storytelling process into The Rising Foundation’s transformational youth leadership and character development programme.

Alex is originally from the UK, is married with three children and has lived in New Zealand since 1998. He has a 30 year background in Youth work and prior to his move to The Rising Foundation has served the South Auckland and Franklin communities as a Registered Social Worker with Oranga Tamariki and Whirinaki (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service).

Feleti Lotulelei
Pathways Employment Manager

I’m Feleti Lotulelei, and I’m the Employment Pathways Manager at The Rising Foundation.  I started with The Rising Foundation in 2010 as a Year 13 Leader at Papakura High School and I have been part of it all ever since. Through the generosity of John and Diane Bongard, I was given the opportunity to study at University, attaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am currently writing my Master’s thesis in Indigenous Studies, a step closer to my dream of gaining a PhD in Social Work. I have been extremely fortunate to have been given all these opportunities. The generosity and love of our Board Members towards me and my co-workers and towards all the students we take into our programme is humbling and heart-warming.

South Auckland is a goldmine of potential that is often overlooked and hindered by negative expectations and stereotypes. Our students are capable of achieving many successes in their respective lives; however various societal issues limit them from achieving as highly as they could. We understand that The Rising Foundation is just a stepping stone in their journey, but we truly are creating a positive foundation from which our students can spring forth from.  We help our students find out what it takes to be a better person, a better brother or sister, a better mother or father, a better citizen and a better leader. This all adds up to a brighter future for them and our South Auckland communities.

Wendy Savieti
Pathways Employment Programme Administrator

Malo’e’le’lei, Kia Orana

My name is Wendy Savieti and I am working with the Transition 2, Employment Pathways Team with a focus on TRF Drive. I am fortunate enough to have seen The Rising Foundation through different sets of eyes, as a student in the programme, as a Graduate helper at camps and now as part of the Operations team.

My parents come from the beautiful Pacific Islands of Tonga and the Cook-Islands. I am the 4th eldest of 47 grandchildren from my Mother’s side and number 15 of 32 grandchildren on my Father’s side. Coming from such a massive family I realise the importance of planting seeds of influence and the positive effect we can have on our families.

Over the years, I believe the influence of The Rising Foundation has enriched me with strong principles of self-belief and empathy for others, which were cleverly reinforced by lots of challenging and fun activities. I have gained a great sense of self-awareness through my involvement with the programme. I am excited now to see how our young people move into the world of work having gained those qualities too. In my role, I’m most looking forward to watching our young students develop good driving skills in order to gain their drivers licence.

Donna Rogers
TRF Programme Administrator

Hello, my name is Donna Rogers and I’ve been with TRF since May 2012.  I’ve lived in Papakura most of my life, apart from the kiwi OE experience for three years which I absolutely loved and would recommend to any young adult.  I attended the local schools being; Papakura Intermediate and Papakura High.  My background is in banking and I left school after finishing Form 7 (Year 13) at 18 years old, to work full-time at ANZ Bank.

After having two children of my own, my natural instinct is to love babies, children and students.  So being asked to work for The Rising Foundation, which started in my home-town, was perfect for me. I’ve seen students start on this programme as a fresh, shy, vulnerable Year 8 or Year 9 and have been privilege to see them graduate as strong, confident, happy Year 13’s.  Having attended many camps over the years, it warms my heart that these students have huge potential and it’s our charity which is showing them that there’s more to life outside of South Auckland and that they can become the best they can at what they love doing.  Giving them a hand up, rather than a hand out is a really important message and plays an essential part of our programme.

My role as a Programme Administrator is completing all administration duties that need to be carried out for our not-for-profit organisation. This job is varied and covers a wide range of responsibilities from; Trustee Board Secretary, a member of the fundraising committee, handling payroll, finance, assisting Programme Coordinators with organising camps, camp Mother and Nurse, meeting new sponsors, creating new funding applications, processing audit reports, website maintenance and more.   This role is a crucial part of our charity, which I love.

Tiare Matara
TRF Programme Coordinator

Kia ora everyone, my name is Tiare Matara and I am the Programme Coordinator based in Pukekohe High School. I have graduated from Te Wananga o Aotearoa with a Bachelor of Social Work-Biculturalism and Practice. I am currently in the process of gaining my Social Work registration. My journey with TRF started in 2011 as a student and now as a staff member.

Here are a few great things I love about The Rising Foundation;

The flexibility and trust we have from John and Diane Bongard and from our Board of Trustees to fulfill our role as coordinators. I have a job where being creative and purposeful is encouraged.

Amazing support – Sir Michael & Lady Sarah Fay are both generous supporters. They have given me the financial freedom & utmost faith to complete my studies, which they sponsored. Lady Sarah Fay is also serving on our Board of Trustees.

We see results in how our students behave, what our students achieve, and in how they treat themselves and each other. We witness huge shifts in how they respond to difficult situations in their life, and transformation in who they aspire to be. This growth is just as valuable as our performance targets.

Being a five year plus programme, we are able to establish relationships with students where time constraints are not an issue. You naturally build a love for witnessing any type of growth from your students and JB graduates over the years which are valuable to TRF.

Being able to coordinate unique character building experiences. I have always loved to plan and organise events growing up. It made sense that hosting leadership camps combined my love for working with youth and the excitement of event management.

The most integral part of this role is that we genuinely care about every single individual we work with. Joining The Rising Foundation had a pivotal impact in my life as a student and now as a staff member.

Gideon Rihari
TRF Programme Coordinator

Ko Ngapuhi tōku Iwi,

Ko Ngati Torehina ki Matakaa tōku hapū,

Ko Gideon Rihari ahau.

My name is Gideon Rihari and I have been a Programme Coordinator for The Rising Foundation based at Rosehill College for the past five years.  Through the generosity of John and Diane Bongard, I am currently in my 3rd year of my 4 year studies, towards my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. I was a 2012 graduate from Papakura High School and have been a part of TRF family since 2010.

Since the time I joined, I have come to understand that TRF is more than just a leadership and character development programme, it is also whanau. Students are encouraged to come as they are and learn more about fundamental life principles, which will keep them grounded as they journey through High School and on into their adult life. It is my privilege to be in the position I am and will continue to support young people just as I was supported on my journey.

Jordan Tanielu
TRF Programme Coordinator

Hi my name is Jordan Tanielu, I am 24 years old and I am a TRF Programme Coordinator based in Manurewa High School. I was born and raised in Papakura and moved to Otara in 2010, so you could say I know South Auckland really well.  As well as working full time, I am currently studying for my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. This has been made possible by one of our trustees Richard Jeffery, to whom I’m truly grateful for this financial support.

My journey with The Rising Foundation began in 2010. My time as a student with TRF was extremely helpful not only academically, but socially and spiritually as well. TRF helped me to do a full 180° turn with my behaviour and attitude towards everything I do, ultimately it helped me find my true identity.

TRF has also helped me open my eyes and see that the world is a much bigger place than South Auckland. TRF took us students and also brought our families along to places like Taupo and the Coromandel which really brought our families closer together. What I also love about The Rising Foundation is that they teach and give you tools that you will need as a young adult stepping out into the ‘real world’ that you wouldn’t normally learn in school i.e. How to write a CV, how to make a plan and have a vision for your future, how to run events like fundraisers and how to present yourself in an interview.

It warms my heart knowing that there are programmes like this that really do care about our youth and families and make a practical difference in their lives. The Rising Foundation has helped me to build my character as an individual. TRF has also equipped me with the appropriate tools and knowledge to collaborate passionately, to encourage and teach our future leaders, so that they can do and be anything they desire to be.

Aviata Tanielu

TRF Programme Coordinator

Malo le soifua maua ma le lagi e mamā

Talofa lava, my name is Aviata Tanielu and I am a graduate of The Rising Foundation programme from the 2014 cohort of Papakura High School. I also have the great privilege of being the TRF Programme Coordinator for Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in The Promised Land of South Auckland, Otara.

When I joined TRF as a student back in 2011, I would never have guessed the major impact it would have on me as a young, Pasefika student. One of the most memorable teachings that I can remember would have to be the ‘King of the Jungle’ principle. The Lion is deemed the King of the jungle, purely based upon its own understanding that even though it is not the largest, tallest, strongest or even most fearful animal in the kingdom, what separates it from the rest of the animals and elevates it to kingly status is its ATTITUDE. This lesson has really helped me to think about the way I apply myself to any situation despite the flaws and downfalls, always striving to have the best possible attitude and outlook on life.

It is the impact of these teachings, opportunities, examples and relationships that I have experienced over the years of being a part of TRF that I desire to pass on to our TRF students. I have high hopes that the significance of this programme, will continue to be relevant and fruitful for the youth of today.

Soifua ma ia manuia,


Aviata Tanielu

Billie Paterson

TRF Programme Coordinator

Kia ora, my name is Billie Paterson. I am a 2014 JB Graduate from Pukekohe High School. I currently have the utmost privilege to be back in the school I graduated from, working as a Programme Coordinator.

To be engaged with a programme as beneficial as TRF through my High School years, was certainly a huge privilege and blessing. From the beginning, the programme has helped me to enhance and progress my knowledge, and understanding of life’s ongoing situations. These challenges are largely the same for our students and families today.

When it was added to the knowledge we already had, the skill set and tools which we gained through the programme, formed a great foundation for us all as we were transitioning through high school. The Rising Foundation provides students with real skills, confidence and tools to network with others in these crucial years of their lives.

These principles also enable us to sustain better relationships with teachers and staff. I’ve learned this from the positive feedback and insight passed on by teachers who have volunteered to support the students and team at camps.

I love this work and it is so good to be able to give something back to the school and programme that did so much in my life.

Eddie Lepou
TRF Programme Coordinator

Malo e lelei, my name is Eddie Lepou and I am 24 years old. I am a Graduate of The Rising Foundation programme class of 2012. I am very privileged and blessed with the opportunity of becoming the Programme Coordinator for Papakura high school, working along-side Tiare.

I have been a part of The Rising Foundation since 2010 while attending Papakura High School and I am pleased to see that the programme is still going strong. Joining The Rising Foundation was one of the best decisions I made back in high school. The bonds of friendship and the family ‘vibe’ that was created over the years is something I’ll forever be grateful for.

The Rising has taken me on a journey of self-discovery and helped me to become aware of the potential that I had within me. Today I can say that The Rising Foundation has helped me and equipped me with the right tools to get me where I am today and to be the person I have become.

Prior to joining The Rising Foundation, I was employed by Department of Corrections at the Men’s prison in Wiri. I just always wished I could do more to help rehabilitate the men back into society. So bringing my experience from the prison and sharing with students, will hopefully be an eye opener and a reminder to them that this place is real and this is where people go, when the wrong choices and decisions are made.

I just have this mind-set that if I can at least share what I know and what I’ve seen, this could influence change in our students thinking so it won’t be too late for them. It’s a privilege to be employed by The Rising Foundation and being a part of the students’ journeys. I am very blessed to be working alongside the amazing TRF team. Fa’afetai Lava.

Shani Apelu-Kongaika

TRF Cadet

Heya! My name is Shani Apelu and I’m the newest addition to the The Rising Foundation whanau as a Cadet.
Prior to joining the team I was a World Vision Ambassador and visited Uganda in that capacity and I spent my gap year working at Franklin Foods as a factory line worker.

I fully immersed myself in the TRF programme in my final year at Pukekohe High School in 2017, but I had always known about the programme since Year 9 as my friend regularly attended the programme.
There’s so many aspects to the programme, but what I’ve always appreciated is the unconditional love that the team gives to the students. There’s such a unique intimacy about the bonds that are created and despite coming from all different walks of life, for the moment you all share the same path. In that one year, I found myself growing through other TRF members and I treasure the many relationships that I made.
So now I get the privilege to walk along with so many others on their journeys and join with this amazing team. Everyone does their part and go beyond to make The Rising possible. I have so much to learn and I look forward to what lies ahead.