Meet The Team

Our Team


Rachel Ralph

Farm Manager and Buddy


Rachel founded Hope Rising Farm in 2012 and since then has supported students, as well as managing the Trust, programme creation, Buddy training, animal care, marketing, communications and everything in between! Rachel is a connector, and is always engaging with people around her, supporting others and making new friends. Rachel has an un-ending passion for helping young people and women.
You can find her out on the farm with students, developing programmes or very occasionally she gets time for a ride on the farm!


Jeanie van Zweeden

Operations Manager and Buddy

Jean started working as a buddy for Hope Rising Farm in February 2020, after returning from working in the UK for 11 years. We now welcome Jean as our Operations Manager from 2021. Jean has had an involvement with horses and riding since she was a child.  However, while in the UK she became aware of how impactful handling horses and being around horses can be to people, especially those who are vulnerable. She is excited about seeing how the work of the Trust will impact children in the community that are struggling with difficult life situations.


Maria Cleland

Office Manager, Buddy
Event Co-ordinator


Maria was born in England, and came to New Zealand in 1987. For 22 years she lived on a 3500-acre sheep and beef farm but recently downsized to a lifestyle block. She is an experienced Administrator, and has many years of working with the public, and organising public sporting events. She competed on her own horses for many years and worked extensively as a groom for a top 3 Day Event competitor while in the UK.She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of the vulnerable children and women that are struggling in our communities and looking forward to seeing many more lives changed at Hope Rising Farm.

Our Buddies


Eve Cunnane

Programme Manager
and Arts Therapist

Eve joined us initially in 2014 as a general volunteer, then left to study and later returned to us with a Master's in Arts Therapy and became a Buddy. Eve is a buddy and also does arts therapy sessions with our students. She loves the way the farm provides a unique mix of creativity, animal experience and time in the outdoors.
Eve's enthusiasm is infectious and her ready smile and can-do belief in her students encourages them to try new things.  



Heidi Silsbee

Buddy and Horse Care Manager


Heidi has a wealth of experience in riding, working with young people and managing horses. Heidi has been working with horses for 9+ years, schooling young horses and teaching lessons. She owns 4 horses of her own, rides in both English and Western styles, and was Assistant Centre Coordinator for Waikato Equitherapy for 4 years.
Heidi's knowledge and lovely way with young people means her students at HRF gain confidence with animals as well as confidence in themselves.
Heidi also does photography on the side and recently published a book!



Mark Wairepo


Mark joined our Hope Rising team in early 2021 as a buddy, brining with him a wealth of life experience including engineering; nursing and tutoring at the YMCA. He is currently also a youth rugby coach. His easy going, mellow nature makes him a perfect buddy working alongside our vulnerable youth at Hope Rising Farm, giving them the opportunity to build confidence whilst learning new things. Mark is passionate about helping others and is a valuable team member.