“Communities Assist is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to creating and nurturing sustainable, positive communities”.


Our Communities Assist family is dedicated to transforming lives and communities in need. We work with local partners and experts from Australia and abroad to teach and facilitate sustainable practice within local communities. Through working and collaborating with local communities in Africa we hope to be the seed to change in alleviating the effects of poverty and the AIDS epidemic.


In 2006, Communities Assist founder John O’ Reilly arrived at a cramped and rundown orphanage in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. 68 children, aged from two months to 19 years were living with minimal food and running water in unsanitary conditions having been orphaned by AIDS or abandoned as a result of poverty. John took immediate action to ensure the children had adequate shelter, care and education, completing the building of a kitchen and bathrooms, whilst renting and furnishing an additional house in the nearest town so 30 of the children could be enrolled at the local school. Inspired and motivated to create a better future for all children living in similar conditions, John founded Communities Assist, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to creating and nurturing sustainable, positive communities.

John's vision for change began to permeate into social responsibility circles back in Australia which introduced our director and resident architect Mari Pizzinga who was committed to deinstitutionalise the concept of an orphanage and design ecologically sustainable housing for the vulnerable and their communities.

With the vision to create self-sustaining communities Greg Knibs joined the team as Australia’s top permaculture specialist to establish a demonstration site in Tanzania that we now call Rainbow Ridge.

The Communities Assist team is now based between Australia and Tanzania, driving constant change at our sustainable permalculture site at Rainbow Ridge. This is also a place where our CA Kids can call home. Through persistence, collaboration and cultural preservation our story shows that through community empowerment, global sustainability is an achievable reality.

Check our our volunteer programs to find out how you can get involved. 

The CA team


John O’Reilly (General/Operations)

John is Communities Assist’s founder, managing general operations in Australia and Tanzania. Also a lawyer, John simultaneously runs his own small niche firm specialising in maritime law, international transport and trade. In 2006, he first visited Africa and became committed to the objective of assisting orphaned children and poor communities by undertaking sustainable development projects.



Stephen O’Reilly (Corporate/Fundraising)

Steve is a founding member of Communities Assist. He and his Melbourne supporters have contributed greatly to CA fundraising efforts.

A partner of Clayton Utz Lawyers in the Construction & Major Projects & International Arbitration Groups, Steve is the firm’s national Managing Partner for the Property, Environment & Construction and Banking & Finance Services Departments. This legal and management experience brings to CA a level of advice and direction that ensures a measured and stable approach to the projects we pursue.

Steve and his family have been to Tanzania to experience first-hand the wonderful work CA is doing.



Mari Pizzinga (Architect/Building)

Mari is a founding director of Communities Assist and designs all of our building structures at Rainbow Ridge with sustainability and suitability directives. Mari is principal of Beachworth Studio, a niche architectural and design company in Sydney, Australia.

Mari and her husband, Rodney Sen (co-owner of Barzura Restaurant, the Livingroom Yoga School & Yoga Travel Company) also work passionately with their local community to raise funds and awareness. See our “Kids Feeding Kids” program (hyperlink).



Angela Brownlee (Marketing/Business Management)


Mike Crowley (Finance/Corporate)

Mike is a founding director of Communities Assist and manages the financial operations of the organisation. Since 1991 Mike has been principal accounting partner for Mike Crowley & Associates.

Mike’s accounting and business experience and associations with other charitable and community organisations provides Communities Assist with the financial stability and transparency needed to make the organisations dreams a reality.



Mario Cuenca (Governance/Accountability/Risk)

Mario is an international director of Communities Assist and manages governance, accountability and risk issues within the organisation. In 1986 Mario founded Emjay Insurance Brokers of which he is now co-owner. The boutique business provides specialist insurance products across multiple industry sectors.

Mario’s experience in measuring, accounting for and covering risk is invaluable to Communities Assist’s operational requirements.



Mary Lalor (Volunteers/Staff)

Mary is a director of Communities Assist and manages human resources, staff structure and our volunteer programme.

Mary brings a wealth of experience in coaching, developing and mentoring in human resources to Communities Assist.


The Ca Family

CA directors are all volunteers

CA directors are all volunteers

CA Mamas

CA Mamas

CA builder - Vince Dyke

CA builder - Vince Dyke

CA local managers and visiting supporters

CA local managers and visiting supporters

CA Green team

CA Green team

CA Children

CA Children


At Communities Assist we raise funds to bring projects to life that:

  • Provide community education and training in sustainable technologies, such as permaculture design.

  • Create sustainable and productive living environments that maintain and restore ecosystems and communities while reducing poverty and ensuring food security, clean water and healthy soil.

  • Provide infrastructure, equipment and other items necessary for the development of education centres, pilot facilities and demonstration sites for the teaching and application of sustainable and development practices.

  • Design, teach and encourage community participation in cooperative programs to develop culturally appropriate, productive and sustainable environments to ensure communities can provide for their own needs now and in the future.

  • Provide education and create awareness within the community, through workshops and other community programs, on legal and human rights issues.


    As well as being home for our CA Kids, Rainbow Ridge is also a sustainable village. Through our Development Aid Project we use Rainbow Ridge as a demonstration and teaching site for sustainability practices within the local community of Mailii Sita. We believe that by teaching the local community how to provide for itself, it will then be better able to care for others, particularly local orphans.

    A significant part of our Development Aid Project centers on permaculture, which is very much suited to third world subsistence societies. Permaculture is about integrating the natural ecological processes of plants, animals, water, weather and nutrient cycles with human needs to produce sustainable systems for food and energy production, shelter and infrastructure.


    Teaching local workers how to build and use sustainable domestic support systems, including compost toilets, solar power (lights, energy, compost fans), methane gas (cooking), grey water filtration systems, and solar operated water pumps.

    Building pens for pigs (breeding/selling), cows, chickens and goats to designated designs and free-roam areas. Holding two-month permaculture design courses, run by permaculture expert Greg Knibbs, for local workers and the local community. Swaling (trenches) Rainbow Ridge’s hilly site to harvest water.

    Previously, about 86 per cent of water ran off the landscape. The annual maize crop was successfully grown despite drought-like conditions in this wet season period. Researching, sourcing and planting 2200 trees on site.

    Developing vegetable gardens to capture rainwater and ensure year-round fresh and nutritious food. Sourcing a range of open pollinated vegetable and green manure seed to secure seed supply lines and to achieve better genetic diversity in the food supply.

    Check our our volunteer programs to find out how you can get involved onsite at Rainbow Ridge.