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Mary Wanhill

Once renowned as 'Scary Mary' for her fearless feats on a dirt bike, Mary Wanhill had to chart a new course after a career-ending injury in 2009. Since then, Mary and her husband have devoted their time and energy to establish the impressive organization, Youth Encounter Ministries Trust. Mary's fervor lies in empowering youth to overcome life's hurdles and unleash their potential.

Serving as the CEO at Youth Encounter, Mary leverages her counseling diploma to lead the organisation in facilitating activities that are blended with a therapeutic approach. Her keen insights and leadership skills effectively connect with young individuals, fostering vibrant community bonds and powerful connections. Explore more about Mary's journey by clicking here.

Joel Wanhill

Joel Wanhill has been heavily involved with Youth Encounter since the time of inception. Along with Mary, Joel is a co-founder of this organisation, and since the acquisition of our Home Base property in mid-2021, Joel has become a permanent member of our staff as Facility Manager. With his experience and knowledge, Joel also assists the team where needed covering roles from emergency care to activity instructing. Joel loves facilitating growth in all parts of this organisation, whether it be the people or property.

Taz Crotty 

Taz's story entails trauma from her past which she has overcome and healed from, but recognizes is still a continued daily journey of restoration. She believes that her story has enabled her to relate to all walks of life and she has a particular empathic understanding to those that may be going through similar experiences in their own life. One of Taz's many talents is that she can relate well to people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds and she has a strong passion for Māori youth in Aotearoa. Since beginning at Youth Encounter, Taz has come to understand that the enemy will try to rob you when you start doing God's work. She has learnt to trust God through all these challenges.

After being a long-time friend of Mary’s and watching the incredible journey of Youth Encounter, we were delighted when Taz joined the team in July 2023. With a heart and vision to help the young people of Aotearoa and a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in Geography, Māori and Pacific Development and Environmental Planning, she is perfect in her role as Operations Coordinator.

Maree Rauhala

Maree has lived an exuberant life full of incredible experiences. Maree spent 11 years living in Asia which taught her flexibility and a willingness to look at things from other people's perspectives. Maree has three adult children who have participated in Youth Encounter and greatly benefited from it. Whilst working at Youth Encounter, Maree has learnt that there is always capacity for more personal growth. 

Maree joined our team in October 2019 and is currently our funding coordinator and administrator. Her background in banking, admin, and TESOL teaching makes her a perfect fit for this role.

Ethan Milsom

Through his high school years, Ethan became involved in Youth Encounter through the residential camps and he came to realize that the culture at Youth Encounter was a significant contrast to high school. Ethan felt empowered so much so that it soon led him to joining Youth Encounter on staff where he found himself empowering people into their God-given potential. Ethan brings a high level of understanding in the activities and safety regulations which makes him perfect for the Activity Coordinator role. Since being a part of Youth Encounter Ethan has come to understand God's purpose and calling for his life on a much deeper level. Since November 2021, he has been a valued member of our full-time staff and is now taking the lead with all things activity/safety related.

Airdrie Grylls

Airdrie is still often amazed at how her roles here at Youth Encounter use so many of her skills and knowledge from her Policing career and time as a Teacher's aide. Airdrie reckons if the requirements for her roles at Youth Encounter had been listed in a job description it would have been the perfect fit. Airdrie brings to the table unique knowledge gained from witnessing and interacting with so many walks of life and backgrounds from her previous roles. Since working at Youth Encounter, Airdrie has had a huge revelation about herself through the Strengths Finder process - understanding her strengths and weaknesses and how they are heavily inherent in her.

We had the pleasure of recruiting Airdrie onto the team at Encounter in August 2022 as our Client Navigator. Since then, she has also taken up the role of Mentoring Coordinator, ensuring this programme runs smoothly. Not only does she organise our Mentoring programme, but Airdrie also provides cherished guidance and support for our mentors.

Kyan McMurtrie

Since Kyan was young, he has had a strong desire to connect with people and build close relationships. Kyan moved around a lot with his family which made it hard to make lasting friendships, and he was always looking for a place to belong. Youth Encounter showed him how important it is to have community and he now have some incredible lifelong friends. Kyan is eager to pass on that feeling of belonging to the youth, helping them see that they have a place where they're accepted, valued and that they have a place to belong. Kyan never paid much attention to or cared about understanding his strengths, but Youth Encounter has shown him how strengths can help him understand himself better and make the most of his abilities.

Kyan joined the Youth Encounter team in May 2023 as a part of our activity team and is involved with instructing and managing equipment. Kyan spent several years as an instructor at a Camp in the Waikato and has qualifications that support his role here.

Justin Russell

Justin's story influences his contribution to Youth Encounter because he has seen the change and impact that God has on people's lives. It proves that young people don't have to be stuck in the negative cycles but there is freedom. Justin has skills learnt from his Bachelor Degree in Sport, Health and Human Performance, that helps him to integrate the activity component well so that the facilitating is easier to integrate. Since being at Youth Encounter, Justin has learnt a lot about the neural cycle and the science behind the transformation that can happen in the mind. 

Justin started coming to our camps in 2018, and soon after, he began volunteering for Youth Encounter. In November 2022, he joined the team full-time as one of our activity instructors and is responsible for coordinating the Connect program. Justin’s motivation for working at Youth Encounter comes from seeing change in young people’s lives and how grateful they are for being given these opportunities.

Joel Ngawhika

Joel has faced a lot of the trials and tribulations the youth he works with are facing now. This gives Joel not just empathy but an insight and a deeper understanding of youths' situations on which they can form a connection. Coming from a large extended whanau and growing up locally, Joel has found that he either directly or indirectly knows a lot of the youth or their whanau. This often provides some common ground, making it easier to create trust and form relationships. At Youth Encounter, Joel has learnt the skills to stand up in front of people and talk, without feeling anxious.  

Joel boarded the Encounter team in June 2023 as one of our youth mentors. His interest was first piqued when he witnessed some of the team working with young people at a dirt bike track. A friend then introduced him. Joel loves helping our young people reach their full potential and live life wide open.

Emily Nowell

From a young age, Emily has had a passion for helping and caring for others. She has always sought a career path that would fulfil this passion and also give back to others in her community. Emily is very close to finishing up her studies at the University of Auckland and obtaining a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science conjoint majoring in Psychology and Sociology. Emily has a wealth of knowledge about youth and how their minds work. She is a huge asset to helping the team make informed decisions on the best way to engage with our awesome rangatahi. During her time working at Youth Encounter, Emily has been guided through some personal development of her own. In doing so, she has been able to identify strengths and values that she previously hadn’t identified. She believes that it is so valuable to be working in an environment that really values and invests time into their employees.

Brooke Taingahue-Whitehead

Using her experience and passion for working with young people, Brooke brings a dynamic approach to creating impactful therapy. From her time at Youth Encounter, she learnt the transformative power of genuine connection and ways to shape her commitment to inspire and empower young people. Brooke had her first interaction with Youth Encounter as a Ladies' Learn to Ride Day participant in 2018. She loved it so much that she decided to intern with us in 2019. She has been a part of our Youth Encounter whānau ever since and is now on our counselling team.

Gemma van Huenen

Gemma's high school experience, like many others, was not an easy one. She experienced many of her closest friends suffer through incredible hardships, including severe anxiety and depression. Gemma felt very alone during this time which has been the catalyst to why Gemma begun studying a Bachelor of Social Work. She is driven to help those who feel alone, lost in their way and suffering through hardships. 

Gemma uniquely brings to the table a passion for humanistic theory. She loves navigating the relationships we have with each other as co-stewards of creation and building relationships the way God intended. While being at Youth Encounter, Gemma has learnt about her top five strengths which has helped her engage deeper in her mahi and work in a greater capacity due to personal growth. Gemma joined us in October 2022 as a youth mentor, specifically for our wahine.

​Our Governance Board

Bill Tissingh - Chairperson

Bill is married to Ngaire and they have seven daughters, four sons, a whaangai daughter and (at last count) 18 grandchildren. He has been involved as a primary principal for seven years; a director of a child and family support service for six years and has served on numerous governance boards including the local college for four terms, three as chair, a local Christian camp for nearly 40 years - mostly as chair, and a local Christian primary school which he led the establishment of. He also serves on the national board of Christian Camping NZ.

Bill has a wide range of community involvement as is often associated with being the pastor of a Christian church in a rural community. He has a lifetime interest in young people and seeing them thrive through the challenges of life.

Paul Fawcett

Paul is currently working in his own business called Effective Influence. His primary work includes Coaching and Mentoring for business and individuals. Paul has a depth of business experience to support strategic direction and brings a wide range of skills and experience to the YEMT teamHis interest and passion is in organisational growth and sustainability with a focus towards HR and Health and Safety governance. He also enjoys time with his wife, and a growing family of grandchildren at the beach and adventuring in the outdoors. Paul has been part of a number of different boards over the past 10 years, three of which were NFP. He is also a member of the Institute of Directors in NZ and has completed the one-week directors course run by the IOD.

Andrew Clements

Andrew is one of the directors at Grayson Clements Lawyers in Hamilton, and a Notary Public.  His qualifications are LL.B/BA & TEP. Andrew acts for enterprise, institutional and private wealth clients both domestically and internationally.  His focus includes structural design, trusts and succession. Andrew’s work includes setting and implementing structural strategies to allow enterprise expansion and succession, multigenerational succession, and philanthropic initiatives. He seeks to balance work life with family life with his lovely wife, Fiona, four adult children (plus in-laws) and three grandchildren. He is in touch with today’s youth culture and has a passion to see them reach their full potential in life.

Royce McMurtrie

Royce has been a camp director at Tui Ridge Park and Lakes Ranch Christian Camps. He is a qualified teacher and has worked as a principal in multiple schools across Australia and New Zealand. He is a great leader, developer and always leaves schools better than he found them. Royce is currently the principal at Paeroa Christian School. He is married to the lovely Natasja who works at Youth Encounter and has five adult children, including Kyan who is also on staff. His great leadership qualities bring fresh insights to Youth Encounter.


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