Ritchie Civil Launches Suicide Prevention Fund

Credit: Original article can be found here

Derek and Rebecca Watson of Ritchie Civil Engineering have established a Suicide Prevention fund at Sunrise.

It was the loss to suicide of their friend and work colleague, that prompted the couple to act.

Derek says “I can still remember to this day when I got the phone call. The father works next door to us, and we know his brother, we’re all so connected”.

“I will never ever forget that Sunday afternoon when he rang me, it blew me away. It knocked me off my feet, that’s a moment you don’t forget.”

Rebecca Watson says “the loss has had a widespread effect on everyone. Derek and I are still finding it really tough, his work mates are still struggling and of course the impact on his whanau and friends”.

“He was such a lovely friendly person, friends with everyone. When we heard there was the disbelief of no surely not, never. He was just the funny joker guy the whole time. But that was obviously hiding a deeper hurt that unfortunately we didn’t know about.”

Mates of Tairawhiti (MOT) helped Ritchie Civil with the loss of their work colleague. The couples says “when this sort of tragedy strikes you are lost. We were lucky to have MOT on hand to support us. In fact it was MOT that introduced us to Glenda and Kerry from Sunrise when we expressed that we wanted to try and make a difference in his memory.”

MOT goes into workplaces to dispel myths about suicide, show suicide can be prevented and why early intervention is important. Based on an Australasian workplace suicide prevention programme, which has won awards for health and safety, suicide prevention and men’s health, Derek now sits on the advisory board.

“MOT teach people how to recognise the signs that something’s not right and try to give people in that space somewhere to go to. At the moment people haven’t got any idea where to turn. It’s about getting the message out there to make people aware that there is somewhere to go for help.”

Rebecca added that they decided to establish the Suicide Prevention fund at Sunrise because “Sunrise is amazing in what it does, it’s got some really good publicity behind it, it’s there to make a difference and it’s local“.

“Gisborne is so different to anywhere in the whole of NZ really. People think differently and interact differently, we say it as we mean it. We’ve got our own mana, we don’t need it from anywhere else. We’ve got these local problems and hopefully we’re going to find some way of fixing them. One shoe does not fit all.”

“Sunrise is ours for Tairawhiti. We can trust it’s for our region and we aren’t dictated to by outside people.”

Derek added “we’re doing it and we’re challenging others to do the same thing. We can’t do it ourselves, we need other local business input.”

“It’s all about trying to make a difference, so that eventually there will be some funds there than can be called upon to assist.”

“For businesses to function in this town they need people, people are the number one. If you don’t have people you don’t have a business, it’s that simple.”

Derek and Rebecca want to encourage other companies to donate to the fund.

“If you are in a position to support our community with this kaupapa then do it. Instead of giving xmas presents possibly donate to the fund, there are so many ways when you start thinking about it, to help. If we are all in this together then the funds will grow to make a difference. This fund is created by our people for our people.”

“We don’t know where the donations will come from. It’s going to touch people in different ways, obviously we’re doing it because we’ve been affected by it personally, and in our business.”

“It’s happening a lot more and we want to do our little bit to make things better. In Gisborne we are all so interlinked, there’s a small degree of separation, everybody is close to everybody.”

“Everyone knows someone who has been affected. We just hope this tugs on people’s heartstrings and they throw copious amounts of money into it. And if people can’t afford to give now, they can leave money in their will.”

Times are tough for some right now, and the couple are aware that it could be disheartening if lots of donations don’t come in straight way.

“I suppose if there isn’t a fund to bequeath to and if they don’t know about it, they can’t. But there is a fund now.”

Sunrise has an annual funding round where organisations with a charitable purpose in Tairawhiti-Gisborne can apply for funding. The Sunrise Grants Committee assesses applications and distributes grants on a most needy basis, ensuring that grants will adapt and change as our communities needs and those helping them change.

Derek says the funding application process at Sunrise was a big part of the reason they decided to set up the fund with them.

“We went with Sunrise because the granting is non-political. Sunrise has people with a range of different strengths and knowledge they bring to it. Every year the grants will be based on the applications that come in and the money given to the organisations working in the suicide prevention space that are making the biggest impact each and every year, forever.”


Derek and Rebecca Watson, with the team from Ritchie Civil, hope that if people can’t afford to give to the new Suicide Prevention fund at Sunrise now, that they gift some money in their will.

The Sunrise Foundation raises funds from donations and legacies and invests them in perpetuity (forever) for the long term (endowment funds).

  • Income from investments is used to increase endowments in line with inflation. The surplus investment income is granted to charities, organisations and needy causes in Tairawhiti-Gisborne (the area covered by Gisborne District Council). All money raised here, stays here.
  • 99 percent of donations are used for the benefit of our community. As a community foundation Sunrise can only retain one percent of endowment value each year to cover operating costs. This one percent funding model is in contrast to many charities where it can be usual that up to thirty percent (and sometimes more) of donations are used. Funding from Trust Tairawhiti and Clark Charitable Trust, and corporate sponsorship assist with operational costs.
  • Generous local donors have grown endowments to $5.9 million and have promised a further $3.5 million in bequests to The Sunrise Foundation since Sunrise was launched in October 2014, which has seen Sunrise become the fastest growing community foundation in New Zealand.
  • Donations gifted to the Sunrise General Fund ensure we can respond to our communities needs as they change. Income from the Sunrise General Fund is used to provide grants in our annual funding round.
  • Donors can support their favourite charities or causes through a special purpose endowment fund, meaning their chosen charity will be supported by their donation forever. Click here for a full list.
  • A separate named endowment fund can be established when a donors donations total $50,000 or more. They can nominate which local charities or causes will receive grants from the income from the fund.
  • Although fairly new to New Zealand community foundations have been operating successfully in Canada and the USA for over 100 years.
  • Sunrise is one of 18 independent community foundations in New Zealand.
  • The Sunrise Foundation was launched by Sir Stephen Tindall in October 2014.
  • Sunrise is governed by a local board and supported by Community Foundations New Zealand and The Tindall Foundation with guidance, encouragement and sharing of resources.
  • Colin Christie, Sunrise deputy chair, is on the board of Community Foundations NZ.
  • Sunrise has one funding round per annum. Applications are open to charitable organisations in Tairawhiti-Gisborne and organisations delivering charitable projects in Tairawhiti-Gisborne.
  • Funding applications are assessed by the Sunrise Grants Committee.
  • We have awarded grants to local causes across a wide range of sectors and throughout the district. Since we launched in 2014 we have granted $568,000 to arts, education, environment, health, social services and sport causes throughout Tairawhiti-Gisborne (the area governed by Gisborne District Council). Visit our website for a full list of grant recipients.

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