Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

PHL Ambassador, Zonta club of Wellington hold inspirational dinner for young women students in New Zealand

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As part of the Philippine Embassy’s cultural diplomacy and promotion of people-to-people understanding and interaction, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez in cooperation with the ZONTA Club in Wellington hosted an “Inspirational Dinner” for fourteen female students from Wellington and Hutt high schools and colleges at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s residence) on 19 September 2014. Ms. Jordana Zhu and Ms. Maria Araiza from Naenae College, Ms. Milly Seymour, from Chilton Saint James School, Ms. Aprille Mincher and Ms. Emma Berryman from Newlands College, Ms. Alex Garcia from Sacred Heart College, Ms. Katherine Kooistra from St. Mary’s College, Wellington, Ms. Emma Forde-MacNaughton from Wellington East Girls College, Ms. Alinor Rose from the Hutt Valley Teen Parent Programme, Ms Alexandra MacFarlane from Samuel Marsden Collegiate School-Whitby, Ms. Brittany Young from Onslow College, Ms. Anna Collett from Wellington High School, Ms. Joanna Rubi from St Catherine’s College, Kilbernie and Ms. Ahrabie Yogarajah from Hutt Valley High School were present.

Eight Zontians led by Ms. Lynn McKenzie, Immediate Past President of Zonta International and members of the Zonta Club of Wellington, Ms. Agnes Espineda, President, Dr. Jan Pearson, Vice President, Ms. Sarah Barclay, Member, Ms. Helen Bowie, Member, Ms. Patricia Watts, Chair, Public Relations and Communications Committee, Ms. Martine Foster, Member and Ms. Sandra Daly, Chair of the Young Woman and Public Affairs Award. Lynn McKenzie highlighted the significance of the occasion held on Suffrage Day as a way of acknowledging the important roles of future women leaders. Together with Ambassador Benavidez, they got together to provide a wonderful opportunity for young women students to experience Filipino hospitality and culture and formal function. An avenue to listen to and interact with women who shared their career paths and advice and enable them to talk about their future goals and express their views on different subjects during conversations around the dinner table.

With her daughter, Bianca, who is a student at Victoria University in Wellington, Ambassador Benavidez welcomed the guests “Ang Bahay”, a piece of Philippine territory in Wellington “where we hope the Filipino ambience, atmosphere and furnishings will let you experience the warmth, friendship and the renowned hospitality of our people.” On this significant occasion, the Philippine Embassy are greatly honoured and happy to partner with the Zonta Club Wellington, whose officers and members distinctly and tangibly demonstrate in their activities and advocacies their laser focused determination and commitment to improving the status and protecting the rights of women worldwide. This is the collective resolve and common pursuit that bind the Philippines and New Zealand which are in the forefront to highlighting the importance of women as key drivers to growth and development in the life of nations and in the lives of peoples.

Ms. Espineda thanked Ambassador Benavidez for the warm welcome and gracious reception, shared the objectives of ZONTA Club of Wellington in organizing the inspirational dinner for the benefit of the young women students and went through the evening’s programme. The formal dinner started with Grace led by Ms. Emma Forde-MacNaughton from Wellington East Girls College, guests engaged in enlightening conversations focusing on the students’ entry in universities, Zontians’ advocacies, Philippines-New Zealand relations, national and international events and other subjects of interest. Mid-way during the dinner, Ambassador Benavidez spoke on the opportunities, contributions and challenges in the Philippine foreign service and her experiences as a woman diplomat and encouraged the students to consider a career in diplomacy as it is a great honour and distinct privilege to be at the frontline of serving the national interests and people of one’s country in the global community. Ms. McKenzie exhorted the students to value the significance and sacrifices of women who made it possible in 1893 for New Zealand to become the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote. She added that is it important to secure this right by exercising their right to suffrage at elections the next day. Before the end of the dinner, the students gave their individual responses to what legacy would they like ZONTA to leave with them. These ranged from continued opportunities for academic enrichment, support for women in the sciences, promotion of unity and coming together for collaborative strength, cooperation for women across nations engaged in international roles, break out and empowerment of women as part of communities to creation of a sense of safety, security, equality and provision of opportunities for continuing tertiary education, development of one’s self through kindness and goodness and sharing of informal education such as the inspirational dinner and other activities. Ambassador Benavidez and the Zontians imparted words of advice to the young students motivating them to imbue one’s mission with a vision and passion with compassion to make great things come to life, to work hard and believe that one can do it, to be confident and put one’s self forward in a positive way, to be excellent and happy to get going, to be kind and most embracing to others, to remember that being a mother is important, to have a wonderful and meaningful life and to be happy and find something worthy of one’s efforts.

It was truly an evening to remember - very inspiring, motivational and educational for everyone. “We are all interconnected moving together for the advancement of women in the local, regional and international arenas and inspiring young women to whom we will pass on the baton and the banner for women’s development and empowerment across all sectors and nationalities,” Ambassador Benavidez stated. In her letter of thanks, Ms. McKenzie stated that the inspiring dinner for high school students from the Wellington and Hutt areas “will leave a lasting memory for the young women attending and members of the Zonta Club of Wellington.” The young women students were also profuse in their appreciation for the warm welcome to a Filipino home, the inspiration and words of wisdom for their future careers and goals to become leaders in their chosen fields of endeavour, the friends and networking they have made to help them achieve their dreams and the hospitality that enabled them to savour and enjoy Filipino cuisine and experience various aspects of Philippine culture. Ambassador Benavidez continues to receive heart-warming letters from the students some of whom would like to pursue a career in diplomacy and visit the Philippines some day and “spend time in your beautiful country.”

A photographic slide show arranged by Ms. Espineda who vividly captured the inspiring and moving event can be viewed in this link (

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