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About Us

The Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust provides training in literacy for isolated rural adults and teenagers. The Trust has operated from  premises in Port Waikato since August 2011. Our volunteer coaches work with a student from 3-5 days a week for 30 minutes a day, using phone, mail, fax and video-conference. Students are able to access our online practice software if they have access to a computer with internet or can get to a library computer. The Trust runs school holiday Catchup Literacy Camps for high school students who want to improve their literacy skills.

Our Trustees

Richard Winch – Chairperson

Richard Winch - Chairperson

Respected businessman with particular success in Information Technology management and in business process troubleshooting, and project recovery, especially in the IT sector. Has worked for IBM, Baycorp, Ford (US), Telstra and World Pay, amongst others. He is a founding trustee.




Josephine Poland – Secretary

Active in adult literacy since 1994, previously manager of Auckland Adult Literacy Inc, which grew from one center to four centers under her management (2000 – 2007). Was a Literacy Aotearoa national tutor trainer from 2000 to 2006, but training and supervising tutors in the Auckland area from 1997. Qualified NZQA assessor and moderator, she has a BA in Education, Psychology and Computer Science, and a graduate diploma in Language Teaching to Adults.  She is a founding trustee of the Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust.

Josephine is also the manager of the Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust.


Vanessa Lang – Treasurer

Vanessa has a B.Com from University of Otago and is currently  Senior Governance Manager with ANZ. Prior to that she worked in the UK and NZ as a senior compliance analyst in a variety of financial services industries.  Vanessa is passionate about adult literacy due to family history, knowing that adults must choose to go to class, and attending class always means taking time away from the important adult responsibilities of work and family. Personal goals provide adults with the motivation to make that choice, and it is really rewarding to see.


Leia Senington

Leia had her initial board experience on the Franklin Youth Advisory Board. She is a passionate young professional who has been working in the health sector for over six years. Her love for working with people to achieve excellent outcomes developed when she got a job in disability services while studying her undergraduate degree. Leia later went on to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma in Social and Community Leadership and then a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Auckland. Her aim is to contribute to ensuring everyone in Aotearoa has equitable access to education by utilizing social innovation and promoting the sharing of knowledge. In her spare time Leia has been involved with several non-profit projects and programmes, and adores spending time with her two greyhounds.

Our Staff

Manager: Jo Poland
Executive Assistant: Maria Millicent Reyes
Community Coordinator: Lillian Haskins (Te Arawa, Ngati Rangiwewehi, Ngati Ranginui)
Student Coach Coordinator: Kaye Healey
Accounts Administrator: Byambaa Hill



Hall of Fame – People to whom RYALT owes a debt of gratitude

Past Trustees


Mereana Te Pere

Waitaha, Tapuika, Ngati Ranginui

Mereana was a trustee for a year, 2022 to 2023. Sadly for RYALT she left to return to the Bay of Plenty to serve her iwi and hāpori (community) more. While she was with us she contributed a great deal of value to our understanding and resources. She comes from an education and health background, with experience working amongst Maori and Pacific communities. Her previous commitments and roles have concentrated on educational success and strengthening of social structures amongst the most disenfranchised communities. She currently works as a Maori Health Promotion Strategist with the Health Promotion Forum of NZ, working to minimise and eliminate the barriers that hinder quality of health for Maori and other people. She is also active in promoting anti-racism and social justice efforts, and supporting the progress of her iwi and wider whanau.


Vijay Satyanand

Retired from the Board in 2018 but continued as an advisor to the Trust. Consultant. Vijay brings a wealth of experience from the areas of strategic planning, logistics, event management, group facilitation & mediation. He has a deep regard for the work that is carried out by the Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust and is committed to the Trust’s success. Vijay was a founding Trustee & the first Chairperson. Vijay is the brother of Arnand Satyanand, a past governor general, and brings the same enthusiasm, skill and integrity with him.


Barry O’Donnell – Treasurer

University Degree in Commerce. Qualified as an Accountant. Accountant with Deloittes in England for 3 years, Finance manager in Middle East for 5 years, Accountant/Company Secretary in NZ for 4 years. Group GM Administration for NZ Dairy Group for 15 years – heavily involved in industry restructure. Director of Shareholder Services for Fonterra for 3 years, including responsibility for the tanker fleet, managing 1750 staff. Consulting work mostly in the dairy industry with assignments having been in NZ, Australia, USA, Chile and Russia. Barry joined the Trust in October 2015 and retired at the end of 2021. His contribution during that period was significant.


Sandy Malherbe – Trustee

Sandy is a governance professional who worked for many years in the financial services industry in Australia. After moving to New Zealand in 2011, he worked for Fonterra, RD1 (Farmsource) and LIC in various senior governance roles. Sandy joined the Trust in mid-2018 and resigned at the end of 2019 to move back to Australia. During that time, he contributed  a great deal to the development of a more comprehensive marketing plan.


Pat Poland

Retired Principal of Deanwell Primary School in Hamilton, past president of the Waikato Principals’ Association, past communications officer for the Waikato Principals’ Association. Pat was a teacher for 37 years and a principal for 30 years. He has a strong interest in supporting parents so they can participate fully in their children’s education. Pat joined the trust in November 2013 and retired at the end of 2016. He is Jo Poland’s brother.




Past trustees often remain advisors to the Trust Board. However we also owe a debt of gratitude to a number of other advisors, both individual and as part of advisory boards.

These include:

Jenny Butler







Pat Hanning

Peter Bright




Our Story

The Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust started at a kitchen table in Port Waikato.  In 2011 Josephine Poland, one of the trustees, was asked by a local Port Waikato woman if she would help her with her literacy. Three months (and, in terms of her progress, the equivalent of 3 years of school) later, she surprised Jo by reading the instructions on some software they were about to try. Her comment was, ‘Yeah! I know! I read things now – because I CAN.’

Spurred on by this, Josephine, Vijay Satyanand and Richard Winch started the Trust (initially called the Adult Literacy Trust) in August of 2011, recognising the unmet need for daily literacy lessons for adults living in isolated rural areas was

  • not simply a local phenomenon, but a nationwide issue
  • and, as such, needed a concerted, nationwide effort to address it.

To guide development of the new organisation Jo became manager, prepared to fill this role in a voluntary capacity for the first few years (which she did from 2011 till 2015) and the Rural Youth and Adult Literacy Trust shifted from her kitchen table to an office in the garage.

She was supported in this by a talented and very experienced advisory group: Peter Bright, Jenny Butler and Pat Hanning, all working on a voluntary basis.

The Trust has found video-conferencing methods a highly effective medium for teaching literacy. It is also fun for both tutors and learners. It is the only way we can train our volunteer coaches, who live all around NZ (two are even living overseas). However, we have also learned that often mail and phone are our best technologies.

With more and more students now having smartphones we are sometimes able to use those – the student can take a photo of their writing and the volunteer coach can share reading material by Zoom. Nonetheless most students cannot afford data and, because the Trust struggles to pay operating costs, it can only pay for student data when donations are received specifically for this.

In 2018 the Trust started working with teenagers, as an adult-literacy-prevention programme. In 2020 the decision was made to give working with teenagers much greater emphasis.

Our Sponsors