About Kahu Youth Trust

On this page, you can meet our incredible Kahu Youth team, find out more about our funders and supporters, meet our Board of Trustees and learn about the history of Kahu Youth Trust.

Meet our amazing team

We’re a talented and committed group of Youth Workers who love nothing more than to work with the youth of the Upper Clutha. We’re responsible for running drop-in sessions, regular term-time programmes as well as our incredible school holiday programmes. Importantly, we are also here to work with you one-on-one if you need our help! Come and have a chat.

Hemi Cordell

Youth Worker / Lead Youth Worker
Pronouns: He/Him
Loves: Football, Cooking, Family
Hates: Oysters, Stubbing toes, Football being called ‘soccer’
Email: hemi@kahuyouthtrust.org

Hemi has grown up as a Third-Culture Kid, having been born in Auckland but subsequently being whisked off by his parents to live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Bangladesh, India and the East-End of London. His international upbringing has led to a strong interest in International Development, Social/Youth Work and Teaching.


After settling in the UK, Hemi studied Music Performance at Leeds College of Music before moving to Surrey and studying Music Journalism at The University for the Creative Arts. During his time studying at University, he spent his summers working abroad in a Social Development capacity whilst teaching English and gaining certificates in working with Physically and Mentally Disabled children in Sri Lanka. In the summer of 2016 Hemi completed the CELTA English Teaching Course in London.


Hemi has always maintained a desire to engage with Youth Work in a professional capacity and feels he finally found his vocation at Kahu Youth.

Emma Hunter

Youth Worker / Programme Magician
Pronouns: She/Her
Loves: Eggs, House plants, Africa, Coffee, & Maps
Hates: Bananas, Flies, Strong wind, Unsalted peanuts & Fruit in salad.
Email: emma@kahuyouthtrust.org

Emma is a kiwi reigning from the Wop-Wops of the west coast of Northern Waikato, and was schooled in Auckland where she spent most of her time coaching and playing competitive netball, rowing, and track & field. Leaving school she attended Auckland University and obtained a degree in Event Management, and has a further qualification in Environmental Management. As soon as she graduated she made the move to San Francisco, and then spent just under a decade working on and off in areas such as New Hampshire, New York, California and Norway.


Emma has a strong passion for the outdoors, and often spends her time off in the beautiful backcountry of the South Island. She believes the connection between nature and a person’s wellbeing is powerfully intertwined, which is why she loves creating opportunities for the youth to connect, explore, grow and play in social and safe environments.


Wānaka has become home for Emma, after moving here for the Covid-19 Lockdown. She fell in love with the supportive community and the easy access to the most magnificent national parks, and has since been able to ply her trade and expertise as a passionate Youth Worker and hiking guide with the wonderful youth of Wānaka. The best part of Emma’s day is hearing the youths’ stories.

Sam Strong

Youth Worker / Program and Events Coordinator
Pronouns: She/Her
Loves: dogs, baking, camping, sunsets, board sports
Hates: doing laundry, being late, cooked capsicums 
Email: samantha@kahuyouthtrust.org

Sam’s background has always involved kids and fun. She has a diploma in Recreation and Leisure Programming for Conestoga College and two partial degrees in Sport Science and Recreation for York University and The University of Waterloo.


She started off programming for summer camps in her home province of Ontario, then followed her passion for snow out to the Rockies in British Columbia. Five ski seasons later, she was teaching preschool and skiing during the school year and programming for a summer camp in the summer.


Her love for adventure and travel has taken Sam all round Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the US and to Australia where she lived for 2.5 years. Sam was missing the snow, so she traded her swimmers for her snowboard and moved over the Tasman to Wānaka. She has taught preschool here for the past 2 years, but recently became a resident (YAY!) and decided to re-enrol in university to follow her passion for recreation and sport and finish her degree at Lincoln University.


With this, trading in her teaching hat to become a Youth Worker was the natural progression. You may catch Sam on the slopes, tramping in the backcountry or cruising on her paddleboard. Sam can’t wait to introduce the youth of Wānaka to her passions and encourage them to try something new! Reconnecting with the youth community has allowed Sam to focus on her future goals, to teach high school, inspiring the youth of tomorrow to make positive change, challenge social norms and have a voice!

Rayner Swartz

Youth Worker / Entertainment Engineer
Pronouns: He/Him
Loves: Sending a hard project out on the rocks! Having Musical Jams with anyone and everyone. Geeking out with board games and friends
Hates: Wrinkly fingers when they have been wet for too long. Coffee without cream. When you’re ripping your favourite dance moves and the music cuts out
Email; rayner@kahuyouthtrust.org

Rayner is a South African born kiwi with an appetite for adventure! Rayner studied Psychology and Biology overseas (Wellington, The North Island).


Rayner is a keen rock climber and the moments he is not engaging with youth, you will find him clambering and hanging on for the sends.  He found his passion for youth work while in Germany, working in educational Summer camps, which mixed fun and learning into one delectable dish.  


Returning to New Zealand Rayner settled in the playground of Wanaka, where he was recruited to Kahu Youth while fire spinning at Matariki. Rayner loves his time there and runs programmes for kids, and does youth engagement. Whether chatting about adventures, video games or youth issues, Rayner is committed to helping youth develop and grow in the Upper Clutha. 


He runs a joint programme with MINT called the Korimako collective, which helps additional needs youth partake in fun in the community, and interacting with youth volunteers from the community. He also runs a Thursday after school adventure club and has taken over SAGA, Wanakas LGBTQIA+ inclusive group. 

Anna Sutherland

Operations Director Pronouns: She/Her Email: manager@kahuyouthtrust.org

Anna Sutherland is our Operations Director.  Anna joins the organization with a wealth of knowledge in the empowerment and delivery of programs for youth, having managed at another charity, Inclusion Foundation for over a decade.

Anna started her career in the charity sector starting out in 2009 as a Dance Educator, teaching a small group of kids with Down syndrome. Word spread and classes grew, and the dance program was formalised as a charity called emotion21 (now Inclusion Foundation).

During her time at Inclusion Foundation she took on a multitude of roles – often at the same time! As Artistic Director she took great pride in creating meaningful opportunities for those with intellectual disabilities including; International performance tours to India and South Africa, collaborations with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Cira and The Australian Ballet School and new innovative programs to meet the community’s needs. More recently as emotion21’s Manager she led the community with care though covid lockdowns, launching virtual classes to allow people with Down Syndrome from across Australia to stay connected and moving. Anna has a Dip. of Leadership and Management. 

Anna is a passionate and highly skilled individual that will bring leadership, mentorship, enthusiasm and drive to the Kahu Youth team. We are truly grateful to have Anna onboard at Kahu Youth and can’t wait to see what 2022 brings!

Kahu Youth is backed by a huge team of supporters.

We simply couldn’t do this without the generosity of numerous funders, sponsors and supporters. There are so many organisations which help to make it possible for us to reach more young people in the community.

Meet our Trustees

Kahu Youth has a Board of Trustees which is responsible for the overall direction, strategy and governance of the Kahu Youth Trust. These people have been chosen to give Kahu Youth a broad based governance structure and an appropriate mix of experience and expertise.

<strong>Randal Dobbs</strong>
Randal Dobbs

Joined 2019 / Chair
Pronoun: He/Him
Randal and his wife came to Wanaka in 2017. They have 4 adult children. Randal joined Kahu Youth in 2019 and has a broad background in business marketing and governance. He has 25+ years involvement in School Board, Community and Sport Foundations and a continuing strong interest in helping the community to provide the best possible environment for the youth

<strong>Maggie Antone</strong>
Maggie Antone

Joined 2020 / Trustee
Pronoun: She/Her
Maggie is a mother and support crew to her very active twin teenage girls. Having held senior leadership positions with global advertising agencies, she brings valuable experience from her work helping leading brands thrive, across a range of industries from retail to telecommunications to not-for-profits. Maggie’s appetite for new challenges and passion to give back, so that our community is better today and tomorrow, ensures that Kahu Youth delivers extensive value to the Upper Clutha and is why she is proud to be a member of the board.

<strong>Katy Rowden</strong>
Katy Rowden

Joined 2019 / Trustee
Pronoun: She/Her
Katy moved to Wānaka in 2019 with her husband and two children, and brings a mixture of business experience (having owned multiple businesses) and her more recent focus on social and community organisations. Katy is currently studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Business (Philanthropy and Not-Profit Studies) with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy at Queensland University of Technology.

<strong>Mark Sinclair</strong>
Mark Sinclair

Joined 2018 / Trustee
Pronoun: He/Him
Mark grew up in Wānaka and returned here with his wife and two children in 2017. Also a member of the board of MAC and deputy chair of Wānaka Stakeholders Group Inc, Mark brings governance experience plus his extensive international experience as a digital strategist, publisher and author.

<strong>Kylie Stevens</strong>
Kylie Stevens

Joined 2021 / Trustee
Pronoun: She/Her
Kylie grew up in Cromwell and after spending time overseas has settled in Wanaka with her husband and son. She has spent her career working in multinational organisations, most recently in a key operations role. She is a member of the Institute of Directors and has a keen eye for compliance and reporting, ensuring that Kahu Youth operates smoothly and reports back to funders with full transparency.

<strong>Chris Waugh</strong>
Chris Waugh

Joined 2020 / Trustee
Pronoun: He/Him
Chris is an experienced English teacher with long-standing links to Wānaka. In 2020, Chris was awarded Supreme Award for Innovation in Education whilst working at Mt Aspiring College. He is now Head of English at Christ’s College, Christchurch. Chris is passionate about youth wellbeing and a healthy approach to sport/fitness.

Our history

Kahu Youth Trust began in July 2003, after the community recognised the need for a youth voice, along with youth-based activities and events within the Upper Clutha community.

Tarn Felton was Kahu Youth’s first Youth Worker, based in a tiny office in the old Community Networks building on Dunmore Street. He was the sole Youth Worker for four years, and kept the youth service running despite limited space, resources and money. It was during this time that the boys’ and girls’ adventure clubs began, along with one-on-one sessions, a Youth Council and involvement with the YATA (Youth Access to Alcohol) which included a mock crash once a year. Tarn also spent time at Mount Aspiring College as a floating teacher assistant, as well as supporting families and young people through whatever problems they faced at the time.

In 2006 we ran our first M.A.S.H (Mellow and Safe Haven) tent at Rippon Music Festival, a chill out place for those who feel unwell. Also that year the Youth Council sponsored a Tibetan child and tried to raise money to go to Tibet to meet him.

Richard Elvey joined Kahu Youth part time working alongside Tarn from 2007, which meant that for the first time we had two Youth Workers on the team. Kahu Youth organised our first street parade in October, 2008 replacing the Wanakafest parade for that year. A year later, Tarn left for pastures new, and Kim Holmes joined Kahu Youth – meaning for the first time that we had two full time Youth Workers.

The Crib, as it was named by the first young visitors, officially opened in May 2009, though young people were visiting as early as February. The Crib was Wānaka’s first ever youth club, and before long we began our drop in sessions on Friday and Saturday nights.

In 2009, our first holiday programmes were started and 17 year old Sophia DeWaal launched Bluemoon, fun alcohol free events for young people. The Youth Workers started working with the student council and SADD (Students Against Driving Drunk) at Mount Aspiring College, replacing the youth council.

Other new initiatives in 2009 included ‘Wānaka’s young change makers’ a group of active young people promoting sustainable practice in the Upper Clutha in partnership with Enviroschools.  We also organised our first official Wānakafest Parade and Cardboard Boat Race.  

2010 saw us consolidate our existing programmes. The number of young people using our space rose steadily through the year and we added some new events and activities including a “Youth Club on the Park” at Wānakafest and our first Matariki event, a small pot luck dinner at the Arts centre.

In the decade between 2010 and 2020, Kahu Youth Trust evolved further. The team continued to grow with the likes of Angie Griffiths, Claire “Frenchy” French and many others. We moved into a much bigger, brighter Crib at 11 Russell Street, Wānaka and a year later took delivery of an 11 seater van which opened up the wider Upper Clutha area to our youth, as well as allowing more spontaneity and youth led decisions within our existing activities.

Matariki grew to become a huge community event on the lakefront involving over 1,000 locals, performances, bonfires and a huge hangi – and this is now Kahu Youth’s flagship annual event. Bluemoon grew to become a committee of five young people aged 14 – 19. We also ran a 10 week Radio course learning how to organise, run and present radio shows. The youth involved produce ‘The Crib sessions’ a for youth, by youth radio show on Wānakabeats from 4 to 4:30pm on weekdays.

By 2020, we had three paid Youth Workers on the staff, with other volunteers and contractors working with us as required. Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and the need for social distancing, we still managed to work with youth and deliver programmes during the remainder of 2020.

During 2019 and 2020, our Board of Trustees developed a longer term strategy for the organisation, and secured much more stable, substantial and longer term funding for Kahu Youth Trust. As part of both the planning exercise and securing of funding, the Board decided to re-organise Kahu Youth to enable stronger delivery of services, reach more youth and work even more closely with funding and community partners. This reorganisation was completed mid way through 2021.

Kahu Youth still runs all our most successful programmes and are always planning more new exciting projects and opportunities for young people in the Upper Clutha area. Kahu Youth continues to grow, adapt and learn to meet the constantly changing needs of our wonderful, vibrant community and the amazing young people that live within it.