Digging deep

The Graeme Dingle Foundation’s primary purpose is to help young people reach their potential.

We do this through developing mental fitness and resilience, fostering self-belief and confidence – physical, social, and emotional – and teaching life skills via a series of community-focused, positive experiential learning and mentoring programmes. Our programmes give young people the tools and strength to find their own purpose and direction in life – no matter what circumstances they face.

Programmes start at primary school with Kiwi Can and transition through the childhood/teenage years to encourage further study or employment. We also work with more vulnerable youth through programmes like Project K and direct intervention through MYND. Research and evaluation are pivotal to our organisation – we know our programmes work. In 2019 Infometrics evaluated the impact of the Foundation and determined that our contribution to the economy was $7.80 for every dollar invested, impacting across many social indicators.

2020 taught us a lot about disengagement amongst young people and the impact lockdowns were having on our students. Large households have made it difficult for students to focus and study, wait times for COVID-19 tests (and then the waiting for the results) has caused stress and some students are lacking the right devices and internet connections this time around.

Our programmes give young people the tools and strength to find their own purpose and direction in life - no matter what circumstances they face.

Jenny Stiles – Chief Executive Officer,
Graeme Dingle Foundation
Jenny Stiles Chief Executive Officer Graeme Dingle Foundation

In response to last year’s major societal challenges, we developed two community based referral programmes, which were successfully piloted in 2021. These programmes were set up to directly address the problem areas brought on by COVID-19: potential youth unemployment, disengagement from learning and a perceived rise in levels of anxiety.

The latest Delta outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown has brought a whole new level of challenges for the Graeme Dingle Foundation. We had just rebuilt much of our funding (impacted by the 2020 lockdowns) and then received the news that due to the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 environment, long-term Government support for Kiwi Can would end in December. Now we face further lockdowns and the ongoing financial implications that come with that, including the postponement or possible cancellation of fundraising events planned for late 2021.

However, it isn’t all bad. Our teams have innovated and flexed and found new ways to communicate and to support our students through this challenging time. Our teams across the country have transferred most programmes content to virtual platforms, we have taken to YouTube and have found all sorts of ways through. But it has been tough for some students, particularly in Auckland, where our teams are dealing with the significant impacts of this lockdown on students.

We have launched our Whanau-to-Whanau initiative that looks to provide our vulnerable communities with a much-needed support in the form of petrol or food vouchers. We are also back working with the Ministry of Education on Learning TV – Papa Kāinga – with a series of Kiwi Can episodes as part of the wellbeing curriculum – a way to help more children benefit from Kiwi Can during lockdown.

The Graeme Dingle Foundation exists to support the young people of Aotearoa New Zealand to know that ‘what they have inside is greater than any obstacle’ – giving them the opportunity to transform their lives through selfdirection. We can’t do this alone and rely on a network of sponsors, supporters, and volunteers across the country. Milford Foundation is a pivotal supporter of the Graeme Dingle Foundation not only through financial support, but through partnering with us in incredible ways to transform our technology and to support the educational pathways for our own workforce.

This article was originally featured in the Impact magazine, click here to view the magazine online.