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About Us

The Wanda Foundation was established in July 2021 by performing artist and environmental ambassador Anna van Riel.

Anna is the founder of Plastic Free Wānaka; a non-profit with the focus on supporting communities to reduce single-use waste at a grassroots level.

Her one-woman environmental stage show, Waste Free Wanda was launched under the banner of Plastic Free Wānaka, but soon expanded beyond the Wanaka community.

With a desire to reach more communities in New Zealand, Anna formed The Wanda Foundation in order to bring awareness and solutions further afield.  With a keen focus on advocating for the arts, The Wanda Foundation believes that in order to be our best creative selves, we must ensure we have a healthy environment to be creative in.

Anna Van Riel The Wanda Foundation

Anna van Riel

Chief Activator

The Wanda Foundations founder Anna van Riel is based in Lake Hāwea.

For 8 years Anna was a director of non-profit grassroots organisation Plastic free Wanaka which was launched in 2016, and spent 3 years on the board of trustees for Kiwi Kids Music, growing the children’s music sector in Aotearoa.

As a singer/songwriter and creative, Anna launched her one-woman 1980’s inspired rock opera for kids called Waste Free Wanda in February 2020.The show focuses on imparting tools and ideas around ‘Simple Swaps’ and what we can do, at a time when children are bombarded with all the things that feel overwhelming on the planet, including single-use waste.

Through her journey of creating arts with an environmental message, Anna noticed a gap in the arts sector that could offer a higher level of support to artists whose work has a focus on kaitiaki for Papatūānuku, and thus The Wanda Foundation was born.

Anna tours both Waste Free Wanda and her folk & jazz music in New Zealand.

Anna is a touring performing  artist, and a mother of two. She loves growing veges, homesteading with her hubby Locky, and doing the occasional jazzercise routine in 80’s getup.

Anna Robinson The Wanda Foundation

Anna Robinson


Anna (the other Anna), works by day as a coordinator for Otago Catchments Community. Anna has deep connection to the arts through her years as a dancer both in Aotearoa and Australia. Her passion to catalyse positive and sustainable change for the future is evident through her work and home life. She is experienced in running community based arts and sustainability events, loves nothing more than bringing people together for fun and learning and goes mad for performance art that provides for this. At home she is raising 2 children, growing veges and building soil for her gardens.

Anna is committed to continue sharing and developing her skills, support positive outlets for education and the arts and sees The Wanda Foundation as an immensely important and critical part of bringing arts and education together to help catalyse positive change.

Ella Lawton The Wanda Foundation

Ella Lawton


Since forever, Ella has been passionate about caring for the environment, and the people and communities who depend on it. For 20 years Ella has studied and pursued a deeper understanding of what inspires people to care for the environment as much as she does. From her research and experience, Ella knows the best way to support and empower people’s learning and motivation for change is through fun, creative and engaging experiences. Ella believes in order to create a sustainable future we need a Waste Free Wanda character in every town, which is why she is so excited to be part of the Wanda Foundation.

Ella currently works across multiple agencies, where she supports the primary industry sector to move toward land management practices that create thriving environments and people. Ella has had a varied career having been involved in local government as an elected member, sat on several funding bodies, worked for tertiary education institutions teaching strategic sustainable practice and holds a PhD in resource accounting (specifically using the concept of the ‘ecological footprint’).

The Wanda Foundation Rebekah De Jong

Rebekah De Jong


Rebekah has had a lifelong interest in the arts, dabbling in music, dance, writing and the visual arts and engaging in all things creative.

She completed a BA at Otago University majoring in English and Art History and subsequently moved to Central Otago where she worked in tourism, hospitality, and event management before taking on the role of Arts Coordinator for the Central Otago District Arts Trust.

Rebekah embraces the diverse nature of this role which involves everything from project management to strategy development, event advertising to mentoring and supporting artists, identifying and applying for funding and much more. She is passionate about ensuring the arts are an integral part of the culture of our district.

Rebekah advocates for further recognition of the value of arts in a community. She is involved with several local arts groups as well as Creative Communities Central Otago.

Rebekah has instigated, coordinated, facilitated, and curated a number of public arts projects, exhibitions and events in Central Otago and loves to support others to do the same.

Rebekah also works for the local radio station where she is learning about production, advertising, and the colourful world of media.

In her spare time she reads widely, loves poetry, enjoys op shopping, going to the gym, gardening or taking to the hills with her enthusiastic black Labrador.

A member of The Wanda Foundation board of trustees since 2022, Rebekah is a committed and powerhouse addition to the team.

Asrar Elahi Wanda Foundation Trustee

Asrar Elahi


Imagine a world where art isn’t just displayed in galleries, but ignites a revolution forour planet.

That’s the vision driving Asrar Elahi, a passionate artist, leader, and dentist as Board of Trustee at The Wanda Foundation since 2023.Asrar has a PhD in dentistry and serves his community Pakistan Association of Otago (PAO) in Dunedin as its founding member and Director. He is also the founding member and President of Otago Quran Study Club (OQSC) where he inspires people to serve the community.

Asrar doesn’t just wear many hats; he uses them all to champion positive change through the power of creativity. From orchestrating captivating art exhibitions, art workshops, and art courses to meticulously crafting his own paintings, he inspires a dialogue about sustainability through the captivating language of art. He is a watercolour artist and occasionally paints with acrylics as well.

But Asrar’s impact extends far beyond the canvas. He actively fosters a vibrant community, nurturing artistic expression while serving as a cornerstone in these organizations. One of his favourite projects initiated by OQSC on sustainability is ‘Food forest: one garden at a time’ in collaboration with New Zealand Education Foundation. His relentless pursuit of knowledge and dedication to effective leadership fuel his desire to make a lasting impact.

Asrar believes that within each artist lies the potential to spark a positive movement, and The Wanda Foundation provides the platform to ignite the flame. Join Asrar and TWF and let’s empower artists to become the vibrant voices of environmental change!

Mark De Jong Wanda Foundation Trustee

Mark de Jong


Mark de Jong joined The Wanda Foundation in early 2024, bringing with him significant experience in marketing for non-profit organisations, as well as the board’s second ‘de Jong’ (no relation to Rebekah!). 

His day job as New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s South Island commercial manager sees him developing strategic campaigns that deliver results for businesses across all sectors and sizes. 

Previously, Mark has played a key role in the founding of Water Revolution Foundation, a non-profit which works to drive sustainability in the superyacht industry through collaboration and innovation. A keen writer, Mark is passionate about art’s ability to inspire and empower people to make meaningful changes in their own lives. 

Liz Collins Wanda Foundation Trustee

Liz Collins


Liz, founder of Chalkydigits Clothing, draws inspiration from her deep love for New Zealand’s native forests and creative design spaces. With a background in graphic design and a passion for sustainability, she transitioned from the corporate world to establish Chalkydigits, known for its commitment to ethical business practices and environmental conservation.

Over 20 years, Liz and her team navigated the challenges of the fashion industry with determination and adaptability. Collaborating with local artists, they created innovative fashion designs that raised awareness and funds for protecting New Zealand’s natural heritage.

Today, as a mother of two, Liz remains dedicated to environmental stewardship, driven by her connection to the land and commitment to preserving its beauty for future generations. Her experience in small business management and strategic problem-solving makes her a valuable asset to environmental projects and initiatives empowering New Zealand artists.