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Grants awarded to pioneering Kiwis using tech to help youth

Vodafone Foundation unveils new tech grants to mark 25th anniversary

The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation is celebrating 25 years supporting communities with the announcement of its first ever Technology Development Grants last night.

The grants recognise the potential of visionary kiwis who are making a difference to the lives of young people through the use of technology.

The three inaugural recipients - Zeal, Gamelab and Sticks’n Stones - were selected from a shortlist by the Vodafone Foundation judging panel.

Vodafone Foundation Chair Antony Welton said, “We recognise the impact of digital technology on the young people we support, and both the challenges and opportunities of the online world.

“We’re lucky to be in a position to support innovative kiwi organisations that are using technology in meaningful ways to make a difference to the lives of our young people who might otherwise not have access to the help they need.”

The three recipients will receive financial and technical support from the Vodafone Foundation as they grow and implement their projects over the coming months.

The three inaugural Technology Development Grant recipients were officially announced at the Vodafone Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration at MOTAT on Tuesday 25 October.

Vodafone CEO Russell Stanners was joined by Vodafone Foundation Chair Antony Welton in making a presentation on the night, in addition to heart-warming stories from young people who have benefited from the work of the Foundation over the years.

Tech grant recipients represent all corners of New Zealand

One of the Vodafone Foundation’s first Technology Development Grant recipients is Auckland-based not-for-profit youth organisation Zeal, recognised for leading a ground-breaking social media support project to combat suicide amongst young kiwis.

Zeal Advocacy and Communications Manager Elliot Taylor said, “We are excited to have the support of the Vodafone Foundation to help us realise our goal to give young people in crisis a place to seek help.

“Research shows one in four young people are online almost constantly* and an overwhelming percentage of New Zealand young people said they had seen others post about a personal crisis online.

“We believe every young person disclosing a crisis on social media should receive support when and where they need it. With suicide being a leading cause of death amongst youth worldwide, it is apparent that many young people simply aren’t receiving the support they need,” Taylor said.

Zeal’s online youth mental health project, Live For Tomorrow, identifies and offers immediate interpersonal support to young people on social media, in a method called Online Crisis Intervention.

Central Otago-based Sticks’n Stones, another of the Technology Development Grant winners, is developing an intuitive web tool that provides support to young people affected by bullying and other forms of harassment. Young people have been involved in co-designing the tool from the outset, and will provide input right through to construction of the site.

Sticks’n Stones coordinator Karla Sanders says the tool links to a wide range of services that will meet the individual needs of users and direct them to tips and ideas they can put into action themselves.

“The project began through a desire to make help more accessible, relevant and targeted to vulnerable young people who are being affected by bullying, harassment and other online issues.

“Our research showed 48 per cent of young people being affected by bullying behaviours were not sharing it with anyone and instead trying to cope alone.

“With funding from the Vodafone Foundation we’re able to research, develop and test our online tool and ultimately lead young people to get the help they need,” Sanders said.

Wellington-based Gamelab is the third inaugural grant recipient and is behind a project with Wellington High School that involves students building online courses and games to teach basic programming and game design skills to young people in areas of high deprivation.

Gamelab CEO Dan Milward said, “Today’s digital divide is between consumers and makers. Young people living in lower socioeconomic areas are being left without the opportunities to pursue careers in digital industries like game design.

“Our initiative brings students and industry together and empowers young people to help their peers to have access to the same skills and opportunities that they do, regardless of where they live or whether they can afford it,” added Milward.

*Pew Research Center’s Teens Relationships Survey, Sept. 25-Oct. 9, 2014 and Feb. 10-Mar. 16, 2015 (n=1,060 teens ages 13 to 17)

ENDS

For more information on the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation Technology Development Grants please visit: http://foundation.vodafone.co.nz/technology-development-grants/


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