I remembered vividly looking through the Kapi Mana Newspaper, the local Porirua City news portal during the Easter holidays of 2013 and reading about a snippet of the Zonta Club of Mana celebrating International Womens Day-That was it! I was desperate to become a part of a womens group but more importantly to blend into the local community being an international migrant and to contribute to society. The next day, I was on the phone to the Convener of Membership Helen Scott who was holidaying and enjoying a concert at the beautiful Gold Coast in Australia- I wanted to become a member. It didn’t matter how much it would cost me-I just wanted to hang out with some women and fellowship in a different manner-a manner that would change lives. Since then, my life changed. There are more positive outcomes. It was one of the best decisions of my life and career in terms of development and professional growth.
The New Zealand public wouldn’t know much about this womens club even though it has been functioning since 1919 from Buffalo, New York. It was centred around helping fund women to pursue careers in the fields of public affairs and policy making. I bet most Islands of the Pacific would not have heard of the Zonta Club. The people of Vanuatu would not even have a clue! Yes, I come from Vanuatu-the islands of fire as the popular successful TV show Survivor called it. In 2015, the women in my village heard it for the first time and they could relate to what it does and promote to what they have called themselves as for the last 50 plus years-PWMU (Presbyterian Womens Missionary Union), the women branch in the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu. I was invited to talk about the possibility of helping them out with their womens projects back in the village and they were ecstatic hearing me being part of this wonderful womens group in Mana, New Zealand. They could empathise with me relating about the different projects that we do to help out the local communities we live in such as helping out the womens prison Arohata with Magazines, collecting and distributing Bras and Undies to these women and staging an annual concert called In-Out Arohata-all empowering projects on very high levels. You can listen to a recent interview here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201824506-I went to this concert in 2016 for the first time and came out really empowered and inspired by it! I would highly recommend going to attend the concert one day whenever you are in Wellington during the lead up to the Festive season.
I have been with the womens club for over three years and it would be fair to say that as one of the youngest members of the club, it was my turn to take on a role on the Mana Zonta Board. Could you imagine me being so terrified of the responsbility and the accountability? I suppose. On the 5th December 2016, I was officially inducted into the Zonta Board. Big steps. Big leaps of faith for such a young Ni-Vanuatu woman. A big part of me was so terrified yet another part of me welcomed the challenge to thrive further in my career. I was so young, often clueless at times but so eager to learn and help out as much as possible. I was sweaty and clamy. I was the only coloured young woman stepping out and up! Yes it was onwards and upwards. It felt so different in the midst of all these women who came from all professional walks of life with so much experience. I had none. Well, I do in other areas but not in such a public domain kind. I am a private nurse after all. Yet, reassuringly I somewhat felt very supported in that environment. I truly felt it. It felt really good. I have really invested into those fellowships on saturday mornings, meeting up with the women for brunch at our local favourite cafes-these fellowships became a bold move that I took to extend the relationships and to get to know the women a little bit more. I became immersed into such a nurturing and caring environment where these women have taken me under their wings to soar. What a great way to mentor young women! It is only to be highly encouraged and recommended to our younger generations of women coming through.
The 2017 Board looks all set but the Fundraising Convenor is lacking-I have gladly volunteered. I have also been encouraged to take on that role too considering I have successfully organised two worthwhile international fundraisers (Bougainville Womens Safe Houses from Mr Pip Movie in 2013 and Vanuatu Children from The Tanna Movie in 2016). In fact, a couple of women had recommended that I take on this role as I could almost do fundraisers with my eyes closed! Maybe there is a tiny bit of an element of truth in there but it has certainly made the journey of being a expat overseas more memorable and worthwhile. Both fundraisers have really stretched me in very positive ways of contributing to our international communities in philanthropic ways. That is to be commended and encouraged. Both fundraisers taught me a lot about working outside my scope of practice and breaking barriers in life-no matter where you come from. It built my confidence and the ability to network and create meaningful relationships that contribute positively. Each time I had engaged in a fundraiser, new ideas and innovations emerge with new teams eager to contribute to humanity. I have learnt to adapt and change how I approach and carry out tasks effectively and to use my time management skills better. I think when you are filled with passion about a particular aspect of life, you ultimately create, craft and mould your purpose. Like me, when I become so obsessed about wanting to make a difference and contribute in a positive way to the community, I will find a way to get through the barriers. I won’t take no for an answer most times. Time becomes both my enemy and friend. I eventually achieve that goal when I am mentally challenged.
Moving forward, 2017 will bring its fun-filled adventures and challenges. I would love to see two very important challenges that would be discussed further which are close to my heart. First of all, this club needs to realise its international obligations and reconnect with it’s Pacific neighbours to help the women. A $500 a year to contribute to a womens club in a Pacific village would go a very very long way and it would make a significant difference to our village womens projects. I think it would really create an international sense of being loved and thought of amongst the local women; that we are not alone, we are being cared for and about and that there is help from other women just like us. I somehow would love to create a fundraiser project that would specifically raise funds to go through to the different womens projects in the Pacific once a year. To illustrate my point, I am a village girl who was bred there and I know that one hundred dollars goes a very long way to helping women projects. Most village women are very isolated and it is very draining working on projects with minimal support. Secondly, wouldn’t it be so empowering to start a Zonta Womens Club in the Pacific? What’s stopping us not to? Reflecting on this, if non-government organisations such as Red Cross are well established in the Pacific, why not?
I’ll continue to ponder these through. After all, its all about women helping women for the greater good of humanity!