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'From head boy, to social entrepreneur and now foundation leader'

Welcoming Ezekiel Raui, the new Head of the One New Zealand Foundation, to the Purposely Podcast. Ezekiel shares his organisation's mission as well as his remarkable journey from Head Boy to social entrepreneur and nonprofit leader.

Even before his university days, Ezekiel Raui had already stacked up a lifetime's worth of achievements. As head boy at Taipa College in the Far North of New Zealand, he pioneered a leadership academy and a peer support program, showcasing his early passion for innovation, purpose, and community impact. His initiatives even caught the attention of policymakers, leading him to share his ideas at the Beehive. Not stopping there, Ezekiel was part of a youth delegation to Washington DC, where he attended the historic Tribal Youth Gathering at the White House and had the honor of meeting President Obama. These early accomplishments set the stage for a series of accolades, including the prestigious Young Achiever of the Year at the 2016 Matariki Awards and the Ngārimu VC and 28th Māori Battalion Memorial Scholarship.

At the tender age of 26, Ezekiel's dedication to purpose and helping others is palpable. His inspiration stemmed from a profound experience where he discovered that two of his friends were involved in 'shifting drugs' during school hours because that is what they thought they were destined to do with no other options in life. This revelation fuelled Ezekiel's determination to make a difference. 

"It's my role to plant and cultivate trees under whose shade I never sit, and that should never have been the mindset that my friends and all of our young people regardless of their backgrounds or where in the world they come from, in fact, everything is possible."

Driven by this conviction, he co-founded Tūkotahi, a social enterprise dedicated to providing comprehensive peer support for young individuals navigating mental health challenges. His commitment to social good was further underscored by his selection as one of four New Zealand Māori ambassadors to attend the 2015 Inaugural White House Tribal Leaders Conference, hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Ezekiel has also been voted into the Forbes 30 under 30.

Now at the helm of Te Rourou - One New Zealand Foundation, Ezekiel's vision is clear: to continue the foundation's vital work in supporting marginalized and disadvantaged young people across New Zealand. Established in Aotearoa in 2002, the foundation, the corporate arm of One NZ (formerly Vodafone), operates as a grant-making charity, guided by its own Board of Directors. Over the years, One NZ has invested more than $48 million to support the foundation's initiatives, funding over 1,000 community organisations. Proudly one of the largest corporate philanthropic funders in Aotearoa, the foundation leverages the resources and skills of the One New Zealand team to drive sustainable and measurable change through digital investment, corporate partnerships, operational and communications support, advocacy, and mentoring.

Their primary focus thus far has been on empowering young people in Southland, situated at the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island. This strategic approach to philanthropy, initiated before Ezekiel's tenure, reflects the foundation's commitment to making a tangible difference in communities where it matters most and where funding partners were harder to find.

Looking ahead, Ezekiel's overarching aspiration for the foundation is ambitious yet grounded in pragmatism. He envisions a future where the foundation serves as a catalyst for lasting change, empowering charities and social impact partners to be effective and sustainable. Regardless of shifts in business dynamics or funding sources, Ezekiel remains steadfast in his belief in the symbiotic relationship between business and philanthropy. By equipping communities with the necessary skills and resources to thrive independently, the foundation ensures that its impact endures long after its direct involvement ceases.

In our conversation with Ezekiel Raui, we glimpse not only the remarkable achievements of a young leader but also the profound impact of purpose-driven initiatives in transforming lives and communities. 

Ezekiel's predecessor and former head of the foundation, Lani Evans, has been a past guest on Purposely; listen here for more insights into the foundation's journey and mission.


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