What We Do

About Ngā Rangatahi Toa


Ngā Rangatahi Toa has been nationally and internationally recognised for its Creative Youth Development (CYD) work for young people. Our immersive and intensive programmes use creative arts and wellbeing programmes to help connect rangatahi with their purpose and to imagine a positive future for themselves.

Many of our rangatahi are on the verge of dropping out of school. They are supported by our youth development team, who have a long-term positive involvement in the lives of our young people and implement our whānau wrap-around approach.

The sense of purpose our young people develop is strengthened through deep, meaningful relationships that happen over time through our intensive wānanga, in-schools programme and end-of-year theatre performance, entitled Manawa Ora.

Our programmes are grounded in Te Ao Māori and based on these values:

Kotahitanga : working together towards a common goal while being accepting of difference
Manaakitanga: caring for others and Papatūaūnuku
Ako: Reciprocity of learning
Rangatiratanga: Self determination through an understanding of self

Our projects take the form of noho wānanga (learning camps), in-school creative education programmes, a flagship theatre project called Manawa Ora, fortnightly youth mentoring sessions and employment internships – all within a whānau wraparound support system. All of our projects are meaningfully connected to each other and scaffold rangatahi through a process of rangatiratanga (leadership) to prepare them for adulthood.

Our Journey


Educator Sarah Longbottom founded Ngā Rangatahi Toa on the belief that all young people in New Zealand Aotearoa deserve the opportunity to explore their potential through education. During her time teaching in mainstream classrooms, residential schools, and as a leader in alternative education she watched numerous young people slip through the cracks and was overwhelmed by the waste of human potential.

She has since handed those reins to executive director Huia O’Sullivan, who draws on her enormous experience in  Te Ao Māori , Youth Development and wellbeing to continue to drive forward and create spaces of opportunity for rangatahi, that might not often get that opportunity to actively participate in creativity or find value in becoming a life long learner.

Sarah knew that to change lives and walk with young people from exclusion to inclusion meant things needed to be done differently, from a fresh perspective. At Ngā Rangatahi Toa this innovative angle is in understanding that all humans are creative and that ‘power comes from risking yourself in creation’ (Paulo Friere).

We cast innovation and creativity as a lifeline to rebuilding confidence and trust, and reeling them back so our young people can be connected to the world around them and contribute to the community they live in. We partner and work with schools to retain and re engage those on the peripheral of school. We partner with the rangatahi and whānau to develop a love for life long learning that goes beyond the school walls.

The journey our rangatahi make is made possible by the support of our incredible partners. Our extensive network of funding bodies, patrons, community organisations and business sponsors all share our vision of young people transforming their own lives through creative youth development, and have committed themselves to enabling the work of Ngā Rangatahi Toa. To join this group of innovative change-makers please contact huia@ngarangatahitoa.co.nz

Our Purpose


Ngā Rangatahi Toa exists because teenagers don’t always have a good experience in school. When this happens, disconnection from the education system happens at a crucial time for young people, limiting their future options for fulfilling their potential.

Ngā Rangatahi Toa’s youth development team works with teens from South Auckland and their schools, using a proven blend of creative arts and wellbeing programmes that allow these rangatahi to develop the skills to choose their own paths. It’s called strength-based practice, and it’s what we’re great at.

Grounded in love, connection and Te Ao Māori, our intensive and immersive creative youth development programmes inspire rangatahi to reconnect to place and people, to find purpose and direction, and to develop a love for learning.

Our Programme


Using a mixture of weekend wānanga, in-school programmes, peer workshops, art and theatre workshops, and business-based mentoring, our Youth Development team walk with rangatahi to explore opportunities available in higher learning or work placement opportunities. Our work teaches communication skills, critical decision-making processes and the development of wellbeing plans using the Te Whare Tapa Whā model. Our year also features two public events and our regular wānanga.

Manawa Ora

Manawa Ora is our best-known programme: an annual theatre project that invites rangatahi to develop a public performance that creatively explores their own life experiences.

Our rangatahi are teamed up with actors, musicians, writers and artists for a series of creative workshops that culminate in this collaborative work being brought to the Auckland stage for a series of sold-out performances.

Tū Hononga

Tū Hononga is a 12 month programme that  weaves together pastoral care, positive youth development, education and creative elements to nurture a sense of post-Covid connection, strength and stability. It  provides solution-focused interventions for rangatahi that support them to foster resilience and develop positive coping strategies. Tū Hononga operates in West Auckland and the North Shore. We thank SkyCity for their support of this programme.

Noho wānanga

Wānanga give us the opportunity as a collective to get away from the confinements of the city and head to either bush or water, to help us unlock and connect with those creative elements faster. It’s done over a series of consecutive days, where we eat, breathe, and sleep creativity. From this place we are able to form deeper connections to the self and each other…and THEN we create!

These wānanga form the solid platform for our rangatahi to find their voice, their language, and redefine themselves in a safe space before stepping back into their worlds. Wānanga is a very special time of creating, making and connection. It is something we all understand and we respect the gift that it gives us.

Te Āio o tō Mauri

Te Āio o tō Mauri (Honoring the individual’s journey to create a space of calm) works with South Auckland rangatahi, weaving together pastoral care, positive youth development and creative elements. Some of this programme is designed to re-engage rangatahi with their schools after the disruption of Covid. We are grateful for the assistance of Foundation North in creating this programme.