Emily Robertson

Meet Maiti

Meet Maiti

Meet Maiti


At the age of just 9, Maiti was travelling to Kathmandu with a group of older friends . She had run away from home to find work in the carpet factories. The work was unpaid, the only guarantee she had was of food and a bed at the factory, but she was happy, for the food and for her independence.

Emily RobertsonMeet Maiti
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Looking Ahead: 2019-2021 Strategy

Equipped with the valuable experience and feedback from our first GFF Representatives and the important lessons learned, we enter 2019 ready to scale up our operations and deepen our work.

Emily RobertsonLooking Ahead: 2019-2021 Strategy
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GFF HELPS 2018: The Year in Review

July 2018 marked the deployment of our first group of “GFF Representatives” of the GFF HELPS programme. We received applications from over 50 candidates and selected 8 – the majority from the University of Auckland, where our Founder has strong ties and a long history as a major donor. These 8 Representatives attended an in-person or online briefing before being deployed in pairs to rural communities in need, which were to be their homes for the next six months. They showed tremendous courage, maturity and cultural sensitivity, forming good relationships with local stakeholders and initiating projects ranging from Digital Learning and Mobile Libraries, to Solar, Football Coaching, Recycling and Hygiene workshops. We learned a great deal about the rural contexts we were in and their unique challenges and strengths. We also learned the importance of clear expectations between ourselves and our partners, which will help to strengthen our work going forward. These are the highlights from two of our GFF Representatives who have recently returned home, Sophie and Joe, followed by more detail about what we did in each location.

Sophie administering a questionnaire to the women’s group in Kavre

“Spending the night in Kavre Village was the highlight of my experience in Nepal, it was amazing to see how the village operates and the community works. The way in which the people live and to hear their stories and share a meal with them. It is always a humbling experience to sit among people who have the bare minimum of necessities, who can smile and laugh with you and are willing to share what little they have with you. It was also enlightening for me to hear the big difference a small amount of learning can make to one persons life. Basic literacy is something that can be taken for granted when you live in countries like New Zealand, but the things you are limited in doing by being unable to recognise numbers or count are innumerable and take your independence away. Yet through all of their struggles, all of the difficulties, these women smile and laugh.” – Sophie Jones-Williams, GFF Representative 2018, India and Nepal.


Joe officially declaring an area a Child Labour-Free Zone in Kalimpong, India

“I learnt to appreciate that on the whole people are generally good and want to do what they can to help others. Almost every person I met during our stay was incredibly welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help us be comfortable in their country. Whenever I did something to help someone such as running a football training session, they couldn’t be more appreciative to me for giving up my time to help them. It can be easy to forget that most people are good people that want to make the best of themselves and others around them, no matter what their background may be.” – Joe Fisher – GFF Representative 2018, India and Nepal.


We worked alongside a local project, the Yolanda Aklan Reconstruction Programme, who facilitated our introduction to local schools and community leaders. We visited local schools and developed good relationships with the teachers, principals and department heads and put forward our ideas for the schools. We ran a pilot of our Digital Learning project, where we use inexpensive tablets as learning aids to supplement schools with few resources. We learned some valuable lessons for how to adapt this project in different contexts.

We piloted our Village Solar Project; developing a model for providing solar panels in areas difficult to access. These households do not have access to the grid and rely on harmful kerosene for lighting, which causes fires and respiratory illnesses. Our GFF Representatives ran Reading Workshops in four schools and started a Mobile Library to enhance language development.


In Vietnam we ventured North to identify a suitable rural community to work with and found a severe lack of sanitation infrastructure. We built 10 toilets and two washrooms for a new school that will service 500 children from the surrounding villages. In the South we partnered with a local NGO and sponsored 10 children through their schooling. We also identified a rural community and are building our connections there for future work.

India and Nepal

In India we partnered with one of our grant recipients, the Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust, and worked alongside them in their child labour programmes and started a football coaching course which continues to flourish in our absence. We faced some visa challenges and so decided to move our Representatives to Nepal, where we had identified a very promising women’s education and empowerment programme, run by a local NGO, Child Development Society. We visited their women’s groups and found good opportunities for partnership. You can read Sophie’s research report and see Joe’s documentary about this work here. We also introduced recycling to a local school and ran a football club.

This first round of our HELPS programme was illuminating; we were able to test out our internal processes and a lot of project ideas to see which gained traction. This has strengthened our programme plans and operations, enabling us to enter the field in 2019 stronger, more focused on our objectives and able to deliver larger impact. We are under no illusion that there is still a lot of learning to do, and we are looking forward to 2019 and seeing how this programme develops.

GFF Team.

Emily RobertsonGFF HELPS 2018: The Year in Review
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The Glenn Family Foundation has a long history in Macau, building infrastructure for hospitals and facilities for the mentally disabled. This year the GFF HELPS programme is expanding to Hainan. GFF Representative Violet Ge returned from New Zealand where she studied, to Hainan where she grew up, to build connections for GFF HELPS and identify potential projects.

Read about Violet’s first HELPS activity.


Our projects in China are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we hope to restart our long history of work in the country in 2021.

Emily RobertsonChina
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GFF HELPS projects span two locations in Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City and the small rural community of Dien Bien in the north.

GFF Representative Thanh Vu grew up in Vietnam and studied in Sydney. She returned for the opportunity to give back to her community. We have partnered with E-Share, a local NGO that offers sponsorships to children who cannot afford to go to school. GFF HELPS has started its own scholarship, this year supporting children with school fees, uniforms, stationery and books. Thanh also developed a teaching course in consultation with E-Share and other local experts to encourage critical thinking and helping children play a more active role in their own learning.

Meanwhile in Dien Bien, engineer Helen Nguyen has identified the need for sanitation infrastructure in a rural school. The school and surrounding households do not have access to toilets and Helen has done a lot of research and worked with local builders to build 10 toilets and two washrooms to service 500 children and the nearby households. She is also testing out how the children respond to technology and online apps to supplement their learning.

We look forward to hearing what they discovered and expanding our work.

Emily RobertsonVietnam
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Our Work

GFF HELPS first entered Nepal in 2018 with our partner organization the Childhood Development Society (CDS) based in Kathmandu. Much like GFF, CDS work to uplift and empower vulnerable communities. So, by utilising CDS’ fantastic track record within Nepal, their team and wider networks, our partnership is a fantastic way to collaborate on working toward these mutual goals. We commend CDS for their incredible work and thank them for sharing their expertise with us.

Our work in Nepal is primarily focused on economic empowerment, education and health. Some of our current and past projects in Nepal include:

SEEP Program

The Self Education and Empowerment Programme (SEEP) created by CDS is a women’s training and microfinance initiative that has shown great success in helping to uplift underprivileged communities. GFF has worked to on several projects to support these groups such as running a health camp and a soap making project. A report on these groups written by our former volunteer Sophie Jones Williams, and an accompanying video can be found below.

SEEP Research Report – 2018

Online Storytelling and Teen’s Café

Online programs are a key part of our work in Nepal. These projects aim to be a fun environment for children to learn about and engage with key issues such as mental health and environmental sustainability. Teens Café and Online storytelling are two of these projects, which you can read more about on our blog.

Waste Management and Awareness

GFF has also collaborated with local NGO’s to help promote and run programs on waste disposal. Waste is a big issue in the Kathmandu Valley, so these projects have aimed to develop awareness around the problem and empower participants to do their bit in helping to solve it.

Read more about these and other Nepal Projects on our Nepal blog.

"One of the things that working with the beneficiaries of Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust taught me was that children have more resilience than most people believe or give them credit for and can endure a number of horrific hardships and still maintain a smile and pure enjoyment." 

Sophie Jones-Williams, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018

"I learnt to appreciate that on the whole people are generally good and want to do what they can to help others. Almost every person I met during our stay was incredibly welcoming and couldn’t do enough to help us be comfortable in their country."

Joe Fisher, GFF Representative, India and Nepal, 2018
Emily RobertsonNepal
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Our Work

The Glenn Family Foundation has a long history in India, with our work in the country ongoing for over 10 years. This has primarily been in the Kalimpong district, located in the Hills of West Bengal. Key projects have included building infrastructure for and supporting victims of child labour, equipping medical centres and schools, and rolling out sanitation in villages.

The Foundation, in partnership with a local NGO, has also established three Learning Centres in Kalimpong where children can access free tutoring from qualified teachers, get assistance for getting into vocational studies and a range of other extra-mural activities. These centres also serve the broader community by offering health workshops, adult literacy courses and facilitating visits from welfare agencies.

Through the HELPS program, we supplement our work in the area by running various projects. These projects are focussed on education and preventing the amount of children dropping out of school and going into child labour. The Glenn Family Foundation learning centres are an important way for volunteers to interact with and run projects within communities.

Volunteer Representatives are sourced locally from within India and assist in all these learning centre activities as well as initiate their own projects. They also conduct surveys and research that further informs us of the ongoing needs. Past programs have included yoga classes, football coaching and first aid workshops.

Our current HELPS volunteers in India are Melissa and Nikita. Read about some of their current projects on our India blog.

Emily RobertsonIndia
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GFF HELPS entered the Philippines in 2018 to establish new projects in the Aklan area. We worked alongside a local NGO, the Yolanda Aklan Reconstruction Programme, and learned a great deal about their successful livelihoods programme. Our pioneer Representatives, Michael Fanning and Willyn Carrascal lead the way and initiated our first projects:

Digital Learning

Today there is a widening gap between those with and without access to technology. The amount of information available online nowadays means that every child’s learning could be supplemented with rich and engaging content. As technology grows increasingly more affordable and available, GFF HELPS set out to see whether small rural schools could benefit from simple inexpensive tablets, pre-loaded with effective teaching tools, like the famous Khan Academy, or a range of local apps that can be accessed offline.

Michael and Willyn piloted the idea with four small local schools in the Banga area. They conducted teacher training sessions to ensure teachers understood how to use the technology and shared their expert opinions about how it could be best used in the classroom. Teachers took to the technology well and found maths applications particularly useful to enhance their lessons. Children navigated the apps with ease and engaged well with it.

Digital Learning Pilot Report

In 2019 we will be conducting a broader test of this project before we decide to expand it into other schools.

Household Solar

Those in the most rural parts of Philippines do not have access to the electricity grid. They use kerosene lamps which are harmful and often dangerous, or do not have light at all after sunset. Solar lights are safer and increase the productive hours in a day. GFF HELPS piloted a small roll out of solar units to 40 households in Magdalay, a small community in the hills. They worked closely with the local community leaders to determine who was most in need and how to store and install the lights. This cooperation was integral to the project and we learned a good model for doing this type of work in other similar locations.

Read more about this project here.

Reading Workshops and Mobile Libraries

Another thing they noticed in the small schools they visited was a shortage of reading materials and children did not spend much time learning how to read. They developed a reading workshop and sourced appropriate books that could form a mobile library. The workshops helped the children with their comprehension and the interactive storytelling got them engaged and eager to learn. They children are continuing to exchange books and we hope to expand their selection and find ways to further enhance their reading skills.

"This experience has given me the opportunity to connect with communities in rural areas and allowed me to learn more about my own culture." 

Willyn Carrascal, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines

"I have learned that sharing and giving can be just as rewarding as receiving. There is a big hospitality culture in the Philippines and people will try make you feel at home whenever they can."

Michael Fanning, GFF Representative 2018, Philippines
Emily RobertsonPhilippines
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