Congratulations to Mary-Jane Rivers – Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit


A stellar career spanning more than 50 years, Mary-Jane Rivers has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of individuals and communities both within Aotearoa and internationally. She has brought outstanding facilitative leadership, depth of analysis and practical wisdom to support many community-led initiatives.

Mary-Jane currently chairs REAP Aotearoa (the membership body representing the 13 REAPs in rural communities around Aotearoa.) She has been our chairperson since her appointment under a Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership framework as the inaugural independent board member, Tangata Tiriti, in 2015.

Since joining the board Mary-Jane has led significant development and the evolution of REAP Aotearoa and the REAP collective throughout Aotearoa.
REAPs are a strong collective that works together to support their communities with fit-for-purpose and relevant initiatives, programmes and activities across all age groups; from early childhood education through to adult and community education.

Her guidance and support have seen significant changes across REAPs, with a specific focus on the development of REAPs as highly engaged community developers who take a human rights community-led development approach to support rural communities to achieve their goals.

Under Mary-Jane’s leadership, the REAP Aotearoa board has evolved and progressed; now with strong governance expertise and a clear vision for the future for the REAP collective and REAP Aotearoa, the organisation. She has an outstanding way of making things happen, turning vision into action through astute noticing of potential, facilitating shared insights and contributions to creating solutions, and persevering through challenges.
Her inclusive and collaborative approach has influenced the way REAPs engage; in their communities, with each other and with REAP Aotearoa.

Mary-Jane is a very deserving recipient of this award and we are proud to have her as part of our REAP whanau!

Tracey Shepherd on the ‘Beyond Consulting’ Podcast

In the news



Recently REAP Aotearoa Director Tracey Shepherd was on the ‘Beyond Consultation” Podcast.

In her kōrero she talks about the incredible force of coming together as a community, supporting each other, and just getting on with it!

Take a listen below to hear about what Tracey has been up to.


Congratulations To Bernie Lepper – Queen’s Service Medal Recipient

Bernie Lepper, a longtime resident of Alexandra, has been honored with the Queen’s Service Medal for her tireless efforts in education and community service. Bernie has been integral to the Alexandra community, notably helping establish the Alexandra Community House in 2007, a venue she has helped develop into a central hub that now hosts 16 social services agencies, local artisans, and is utilized by 150 community groups.

Since 1998, Bernie has served as the manager of the Central Otago Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP), spearheading various social and educational initiatives that aid the vulnerable. She successfully led REAP’s facilitation of Strengthening Families, a project by Oranga Tamariki aimed at supporting at-risk families and whānau.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Bernie’s leadership was instrumental in the creation of the Ministry of Social Development Community Connector Role, which supported community cohesion and wellbeing, while partnering with Otago Polytechnic and Community House to offer a Learning Hub and digital courses for those lacking internet access.

Additionally, she has contributed six years of service to REAP Aotearoa, aiding its growth and mentoring education leaders across New Zealand. Between 2010 to 2019, she held the role of trustee for Central Lake Trust.

Bernie credits her success and recognition to the support of those she has worked with, expressing her eagerness to celebrate this achievement with them.

She says that her enduring passion for education, and belief in its transformative power, has been the driving force behind her contributions. Currently she is exploring South Korea on a cycling trip with her husband.

Read more about Bernie’s award below:





The Collective of REAPs – semi-finalists for 2023 Community of the Year!


REAPs are collectively semi-finalists for the 2023 Community of the Year!

The Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year is given to the Communities that have shown the best of community spirit and who together have made an outstanding impact on the communities they serve.  Their achievements enhance the social, economic, cultural or environmental prosperity of New Zealanders.

REAP Aotearoa is a collective of 13 local organisations that exist in rural communities around the country. Each REAP (Rural Education Activities Programmes) works within its respective community to deliver education and whānau focused programmes and services that would often be more easily accessible in urban centres.

For many people in rural communities, REAPs are “go-to” organisations, dedicated to finding accessible solutions to a diverse range of needs. Whether it’s tackling the aftermath of big weather events, distributing kai over lockdown or even supporting individual whānau in need, REAPs across New Zealand are on hand for trusted, considered and often life-changing support.

Congratulations to all the semi-finalists in the category.

Learn more here:


Removing the barriers with the help of REAP Marlborough


A student who attends Alternative Education was not getting there until after 9.30am each morning due to having to take his younger siblings to Primary School. Then they were needing to leave by 2.30pm each afternoon to pick them up again as Mum was working before and after school at commercial cleaning jobs.

We spoke with Mum to say that this could not continue, and looked at how REAP Marlborough could help the whānau overcome the barriers to being able to work so that Mum could be there before & after school for the younger tamariki.

Mum expressed an interest in becoming a Barista so she attended a 4 hour workshop with our Barista Tutor Brooke, this went really well and Mum gained confidence.

Just to make sure Mum was fully confident Shona from REAP Marlborough also arranged a 1:1 follow-up Barista training session.

We then enrolled her on a First Aid course, and finally helped her to write a CV. An interview was arranged by Mum herself at the local BP petrol station, and Mum armed with her new skills and CV was interviewed for a Barista position 4.30pm – 11.30pm (these hours meant that Dad would be home to look after the tamariki).

GREAT NEWS! Mum got the job and now our rangatahi is no longer late to his classes and is more engaged with his learning.

Taraua REAPs 40th Birthday Celebration

Congratulations Tararua REAP!

On 5 September Tararua REAP celebrated their 40th birthday!

The day was filled with lots of events, comings and goings, and capped off with a celebration event in the evening.
Coincidently the 5th was also the start of the Festival of Adult Learning week so the team at Tararua used this as an opportunity to celebrate with their community.

Video courtesy of Ace Aotearoa.

Take a look at what they’ve been up to in the clippings below.