Spark
Foundation

Our mission is to accelerate towards digital equity.

About the Spark Foundation

Spark Foundation was established in 2011 and is the charitable organisation for Spark New Zealand. Spark Foundation’s vision is that no New Zealander is left behind in a digital world and its mission is to accelerate towards digital equity. It does this by focussing on three strategic pillars: Digital access, digital skills and pathways and digital wellbeing.

Spark Foundation has a proactive and strategic philanthropic approach. This means we don’t operate a set funding submission date but proactively work with people and organisations who are creating impact and change in the areas of Digital Access, Digital Skill & Pathways and Digital Wellbeing.

Around 80% of our funding goes towards multi-year partnerships with the remainder offered as smaller grants and seed funding. The majority of our investment is towards youth with focus on supporting the next generation of Māori and Pasifika digital thinkers.

Our current partnerships include:

Digital Access

Digital skills and pathways

We are also funders of PACE: Porirua Access Connectivity and Education.If you want to chat to the Spark Foundation team about funding, please send an email to sparkfoundation@spark.co.nz and provide a bit of information about you or your organisation and how the work you’re doing supports digital equity.

Skinny Jump

Skinny Jump is a heavily subsidised wireless broadband service for people who find cost a barrier to getting connected. 

We're partnered with the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) to deliver Skinny Jump as part of its national Stepping UP digital literacy programme, and over 300 DIAA community partners provide Jump to the community.

Go to the Skinny Jump homepage

What Skinny Jump is doing: Skinny Jump is a highly flexible prepaid scheme with no contracts or credit checks, plus a free modem. 15GB of data is provided free each month, and costs $5 for 35GB thereafter – up to a maximum of $30 for 210GB of purchased data a month. With the 15GB monthly free data added, that's 225GB of data available to Jump customers per month. With our partner Ciena we are providing Jump at no cost to low-decile school students during 2021 and 2022.


Meet the Spark Foundation team

 

Kate Thomas

Kate Thomas
Spark Foundation Lead

Kate has been Spark Foundation Lead since 2018. Prior to this she was Head of Customer and Insight for Spark New Zealand and has had an extensive career in the marketing and communications sector.

Kate has worked for not for profit and community groups on a voluntary basis since high school and has enjoyed being able to immerse herself into the philanthropic sector through this role. She is particularly interested in sustainable business models, community empowerment and exploring different methods that purposefully disrupt traditional governance, delivery and evaluation.

When not at work, Kate can be found honing her negotiation and debating skills with 9-year-old son Leo. Kate was born in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), studied in Pōneke (Wellington) and now lives in the suburb of Owairaka in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) with husband Andrew, Leo and Scout the whippet.
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Mary Churchward
Programme Lead

Mary has come back to the Spark Foundation whānau from 2 ½ years away exploring new adventures. “It’s good to be back, it was meant to be. This has been my most rewarding role to date and I’m very blessed to be able to be here supporting our communities, backing them, and helping their voices be heard”.

Within that time away, she delved into different industries but more so, focused in on other parts of her life. Her love for fitness and mental wellbeing and more time spent with her aiga (FOE – Family Over Everything). As a side hustle and hobby, she’s a Coach and one of her favourite lines is “No Rep”.

Mary has 20 years’ experience in Operations, Project and Administration Management. She originally joined the Spark Foundation whānau back in 2014 as the Operations Lead. Mary’s passion is simple: Be kind and be generous. “It’s an honour to be in this role. It has made me the happiest being able to give back to our communities. I believe many hands make light work and that together we can help everyone in Aotearoa unleash their full potential."
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Aroha Simpson
Spark Foundation Partnership and Community Engagement Lead

Ko Puhangatohora te maunga
Ko Pukerata te marae
Ko Ōtaua, ko Mangatawa ngā awa
Ko Ngai Tūteauru te hapū
Ko Ngātokimatawhaorua te waka
Ko Ngāpuhi te iwi


Aroha joined the Spark Foundation in June 2022 and has been part of the Spark whānau since 2005. She is actively involved as a kaiārahi Māori for Spark, which has included supporting the ambitions of Te Korowai Tupu (Spark Māori Business Strategy) and Spark Health.

Aroha grew up in small town Aotearoa, part of a large Māori whānau and is the oldest of 10 children. Aroha is the māmā to Kahuatairingi and has two pīwari mokopuna, Māhina and Te Huia. Aroha aspires to affect generational change for her whānau, hapū, iwi.

“I’m motivated by the wero to accelerate digital equity here in Aotearoa and inspired by the mahi already underway by many, including the Spark Foundation and community leaders. It’s our chance to make a meaningful difference together.”

Poipoia te kakano kia puawai – nurture the seed and it will bloom.
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Ania Kopanicka
Treasurer, Spark Foundation Board

Ania joined Spark Foundation in May 2021 and as well as doing the Treasurer role she continues her main role as Finance Business Partner at Spark which she has done for 4 years looking after different portfolios within the Customer Tribe.

“I am lucky enough to have this opportunity to be part of Spark Foundation and see and hear first-hand all the great work that’s being done in our communities”.

Ania has 10 years’ experience in the Financial Industry and is a qualified Chartered Accountant and part of the CA ANZ Institute. Prior to joining Spark Ania held Finance Business Partner roles at Sovereign, ASB Bank and BNZ.

When not at work, Ania can be found enjoying the outdoors with her 2-year-old daughter, husband Brendon and labradoodle Lexi. Ania was born in Poland and has been in New Zealand (Auckland) since she was 9 years old.

The Spark Foundation Board

 

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Andrew Pirie
Chair

Andrew worked in corporate relations for Spark NZ from 2012–2018. He was responsible for Spark's external communications, internal employee communications, and engagement with key stakeholders including government and community groups.

Andrew is one of New Zealand's most experienced communications professionals with an extensive international background. He returned to New Zealand in 2008 after more than a decade overseas as Asia Pacific head for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s biggest PR consulting firms.

In recent years Andrew has acted as an advisor for significant New Zealand companies including Fonterra and Auckland Airport. His industry experience spans a wide range of sectors including financial services, aerospace, technology, property, healthcare, energy and tourism.
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Stacey Morrison
Trustee

A New Zealand media personality for more than 25 years, Stacey is motivated to inspire others, especially in the Māori community, through the platform that her career in radio and broadcasting has provided. She is an advocate for education.

She's also been extensively involved in the charitable sector. Supporting learning is where Stacey's passions and the Spark Foundation's objectives converge. Stacey works to champion Te Reo and active learning inside the home; alongside her husband Scotty, has co-authored a book 'Māori at Home: a guide for everyday families'.

Stacey draws on her extensive experience in the charitable sector as an Ambassador for several organisations including the children's charity Variety, NZ Breast Cancer Foundation, Water Safety New Zealand and formerly as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.
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Lotu Fuli
Trustee

Lotu has extensive governance experience as an elected member of the Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board of Auckland Council since 2013 and has been the Chairperson of the board since 2016.

She is proud of the many initiatives she and her board members have championed, including the establishment of the Youth Council, waste management programmes such as Neat Streets, building community connectedness and inclusion through the Diversity Forums and Festival and providing facilities that her community can thrive in. These include Te Puke Ō Tara Community Centre, OMAC, the Clover Park Community House the local libraries and swimming pools.
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Vanisa Dhiru
Trustee

Vanisa holds commissioner roles with the NZ National Commission of UNESCO and the Library & Information Advisory Commission, and advisory roles with NGOs and government agencies.

During her career Vanisa has held various leadership roles including CEO of Volunteering New Zealand, Executive Director of 20/20 Trust and President of the National Council of Women NZ. Based in Wellington, she is a member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Global Network, and the Manawatū regional Te Aho Tāmaka Leadership Programme.

Vanisa's key achievements include being listed on the "50 Women of Achievement 2016"; supporting a NGO delegation to the United Nations in 2019; and being a finalist for Young New Zealander of the Year in 2010. She has been an Executive Judge for the NZ Awards since 2011
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Leela Gantman
Trustee

Leela joined Spark as Corporate Relations and Sustainability Director in January 2020, bringing with her close to 20 years’ experience in corporate and agency roles in New Zealand and Australia.

Prior to joining Spark Leela was Head of Communications at Fletcher Building, and before this External Relations Director at beverages group Lion in Australia. As Spark’s Corporate Relations and Sustainability Director Leela is responsible for reputation management, internal communications, government, industry, and community engagement, sustainability strategy, and the charitable activities of the Spark Foundation.

Leela holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Technology Sydney.
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Martin La'a
Trustee

Martin La’a joined Spark as an intern in 2005 working part time in Spark’s retail stores whilst at university. After making a decision to pivot away from a law career, he pursued work full time at Spark, eventually working his way up to a Regional Manager. He has since held a number of different roles at Spark including Agile Coach

Currently, Martin is the Skinny Jump Lead – overseeing the delivery of our not-for-profit broadband proposition that provides affordable access so all of Aotearoa has a fair shot at a positive digital future.

Martin is a proud son of South Auckland and was raised by a solo mother who he credits as ‘Superwoman.’ His purpose is founded on the Samoan value of tautua – service to others. He is passionate about equitable and meaningful opportunities for our Māori and Pasifika rangatahi, supporting initiatives like Hatch, First Foundation, and is on the Board of Trustees of his former higher school, Mangere College.
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Rana Stephan
Trustee

Rana joined Spark New Zealand in April 2004 and is currently Chapter Lead - Business Development Manager, working with Spark’s Enterprise clients to support them as they grow and transform their businesses through digital technology.

Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Rana is a passionate and vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion. She has a daughter with Down-Syndrome and works to support her and her peers to achieve their professional goals, while also advocating for change so that workplaces and communities across Aotearoa can be more inclusive to people of all abilities.

Rana wants to create a world where everyone has the right to work and to feel included as valued members of society and young people with intellectual or learning disabilities are engaged in meaningful, paid employment in the same way as any other member of society.
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Luke Smith
Trustee

Luke joined Spark in 2019 and now oversees Experience Optimisation as Chapter Area Lead, following an extensive career including roles in data, design, marketing, product and strategy.

In more recent roles prior to joining Spark, Luke was UX Lead | Senior Digital Strategist at 2degrees and Head of Digital Product at My Food Bag. He is passionate about blending art and science to create simple experiences which make people feel heard, included and understood. Luke holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing with First Class Honours from the University of Canterbury and now resides in Auckland with his beautiful wife and three children.

With his strong background in digital technology, Luke wants accessibility and diversity to be at the forefront of every digital experience so that all New Zealanders are afforded the same opportunities in a digital world.
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