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Bridging the Gap: Empowering Regional Communities through Education

As the CEO of First Foundation, I am acutely aware of the disparity within New Zealand and between our regions. Much like our incredible landscapes, access to opportunity and outcomes is starkly different across the country. Our programme is dedicated to giving bright young Kiwis from right across Aotearoa the chance to thrive through education – even if they face barriers because of their socio-economic situation.

2020 Pāmu scholar Kaylee Hutchinson who attended Lincoln University

Many of our young people face an uneven playing field when it comes to tertiary education. Our role is simply to give them a hand up so they have a chance to succeed. When we do, we see them excel. This work is especially important in our regions.

Income Disparity

Wealth is distributed unequally in Aotearoa. Many communities face particularly high levels of deprivation and challenge. One such region is Northland, where a confronting 45% of people live in areas classified as highly deprived.

I was recently there meeting scholars, schools, and businesses and seeking new partners to help more young people there. Everyone I met showed why the region has a reputation for pulling together and valuing community. We’re so grateful for Foundation North, Tycab NZ Ltd, Datacom Group, Pamu Farms of NZ, Briscoe Group, Cariad Charitable Trust, Gilmour Family, and Gray Family Trust. They show real commitment to helping young scholars from Northland achieve their dreams.

I’ve just visited another region that’s close to my heart – my homeplace of Taranaki. The community is passionate and fiercely loyal. We feel privileged that First Foundation is helping businesses there to ensure local young people get a hand up. Methanex Corporation, NZCT and other Taranaki partners are such outstanding examples of leadership. To make more impact in the Taranaki region, we need more supporters like these!

We’re grateful that Toi Foundation shares this vision and is behind us as we rally support. 

Low-income families in our regions find it more difficult to access essentials such as food and healthcare services. In turn, this affects young people’s academic development and options for higher education.

It’s not only students who are affected. When they can’t pursue their full potential in study, it perpetuates inequality and keeps financial stability out of reach. The cycle of poverty stifles the potential growth and development of regions.


The transformative power of our programme

At First Foundation, we know education is the catalyst for change. We believe we’ll all have a brighter future when we break the cycle of poverty in Aotearoa. Our programme transforms lives, families, and entire communities, especially beyond the urban centres.

Our approach is unique and specially designed to help bright young people find their feet in the new world of university. Through financial assistance, mentoring and work experience, we help talented rangatahi to build the qualifications, networks, and confidence they need to drive innovation and success. They’re empowered to set a path for better earning potential and more ‘social mobility’. 

First Foundation’s programme helps the trajectory of individual lives and also ignites a ripple effect throughout families and communities. Our alumni contribute a disproportionately large amount back into our country’s productivity and economic growth. The stories of Michelle Elia-Siloata, Sammy Hughes, Martin La’a, and Michael Moka are just a few that show this. 

Our alums are leading at our biggest companies, such as Spark, Briscoes Group and Fletcher Building, driving innovation in social services such as through MSD and MBIE and helping other young people from small communities get their start.

First Foundation addresses disparity head-on by providing opportunities for first-in-family students from regional areas. 

Corporate support for regional impact through First Foundation

Big transformation demands genuine collaboration and commitment. We’re making a big impact, but there is more work to be done. We call upon leaders and companies to play a part. As a First Foundation partner, you can make a profound difference to both deserving young people and whole communities.

Investing in education and empowering regional talent not only brings important values to life, but it also nurtures a diverse generation of future leaders.  

I commend the vision of our loyal partners, who are already part of the journey. Your support is life-changing. Together, you’re helping to break down barriers, dismantle inequality, and build a future that we can be proud of.

As the CEO of First Foundation, I treasure the magic that happens when we make higher educational opportunities a reality for more rangatahi.

Let’s bridge this gap for regional communities so they can unlock their full potential. If you’d like to join us, the time is now.