It was a wintry night of 30th July 2005 at the Willis St Hotel in Wellington. There was warm bread buns being served and the aroma of spicy chicken gourmet soup filled the whole room. Peter and Jocelyn Young were helping to cater for the 25th Vanuatu Independence Celebrations. The food was divine! It was so filling. I remembered clearly when my name was put forward to become the Secretary to the Wellington Vanuatu Community. I don’t recall getting any training at all or if the job came with a manual or any instructions let alone a mentor. Fast foward at least a decade later and what a wild ride it was!
Like any projects or jobs I have undertaken, I always like to reflect on the lessons learnt. I’ve always believed in growth and paying it forward.
“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”
I eventually learnt the power of humility and grace in my service delivery. In his article, Aaron Orendorff a freelance copywriter and content strategist pointed out on Entrepreneur that for leaders to be effective and be high performers effective leader, one has to stay humble and have humility in both individual and team settings. A great leadership is not about personality. It is about having and showing humility. This is the vital ingredient to success. I learnt that humility is not about thinking less of yourself but rather it is thinking less about yourself. Humble leaders are honest about both their strengths and limitations. They are confident without conceited; open-minded without being obstinate and supportive without submissive.
Humility listens. It illustrates that you respect all relationships and indicates you are receptive to and respectful towards the opinion of others.
Humility tests. Humble leaders while heeding their instincts, are willing to test their assumptions. The goal is to test into what gets people to stop and say “tell me more” In my many successful projects, I have learnt to reach out to a lot of professionals to help me with the humanitarian projects. The more I tell people about the cause and the benefits it will bring, people were willing to reach out in return.
Humility admits. To err is human. To admit that you erred is humility. Instead of admiting to a sign of weakness, it is important to realise it is the opposite. It is a powerful act of humanity. It is an admirable act of grace, generosity and gumption.
I learnt about being highly organised, prioritizing and writing to-do lists. Making more happens when you priortise. Writing things down was very beneficial because it made me include my most routine tasks so I don’t forget. The pleasure I get from ticking tasks off was always worthwhile. It meant that I had captured all my tasks and goals. Robert c. Pozen a Senior lecturer at Havard Business School stressed the importance of organising time by horizon and ranking them in order. He further explained that when organising time by horizon, there are three categories. Career aims is long term goals/tasks that last for five years, the other is objectives which focuses on professional goals over the next three weeks and then there are the weekly or daily goals. These goals are then ranked. I have never been a priortiser and have never estimated how much time each task would take unless something becomes urgent and demands my attention. Pozen advised these people-me included to address the mismatch. I’ve found myself in this boat many times. I learnt that sometimes as a professional when I haven’t carefully thought about my objectives and target and so often I ignore that important goal, it becomes a crisis and demands my full time and effort. I have to make a lot of sacrifices.
I learnt about paying it forward on behalf of the community with the humanitarian projects I have carried out. I personally reaped the benefits of that sowing. Somehow I do believe the community benefited too but I saw the rippling effect of positivity and opportunities in my life and it made me want to do more as I had more of the international community support.
Through the 12 years, our biggest successes, highlights and celebrations were:
-Co-hosting the Melanesia Day at the Pataka Museum in Porirua City with our other Melanesian brothers and sisters. It was an incredible day of cultural success of showcasing our cultures to the world.
-Hosting a special fundraiser for the Bouganville Womens Refuge houses with the award-winning movie Mr Pip authored by our local writer Llyod Jones. More than 4,400 kina was raised and used by all the refuge houses in Arawa. A man made an emotional pledge to install a water tank with all the logistics at the Nazareth Rehabilitation Centre in Arawa on behalf of an NGO. That was life-changing moment for me.
-We entered the Wellington Pasifika Festival for the first time with our Melanesian brothers and sisters and we were able to be represented with our voices at the Wellington City Council with a seat at the table. We hosted successful food stalls as well as arts and crafts stalls.
-We hosted another successful fundraiser for the children of Tanna in Vanuatu with the multi-award winning movie called The Tanna Movie which raised at least 210,000vt towards UNICEF NZ.
-We continued as a community to support and raise awareness to the International community including New Zealand to support and rescue our West Papuan brothers and sisters through campaigns, films and lobbyings.
-We were tested as a tiny community when the category 5 Tropical Cyclone struck Vanuatu in 2015 and we proved to the rest of the Pacific that we were powerful enough to reach out to our networks and raise more than $100,000 through the different support channels. We transferred $30,000 towards New Zealand Red Cross who stood by us through some those tough times. I learnt recently that there were 125 International Aid Donors who came through and helped our tiny nation-an overwhelming statistic considering the country was geographically challenged. It was the most toughest time for me and I would love to write a book about what we did as a community to help our people.
-Since Vanuatu is the most at risk of natural disasters in the Pacific, we were offered a seat on the New Zealand Red Cross Pacific Advisory Group to work closely with the NZ Red Cross. The success story following on is I will be deploying with them on an International Humanitarian Mission soon.
-We share in the success of organising a fundraiser with Victoria University of Wellington to help the children of Vanuatu with the construction of an educational facility. It was recently opened and these were proud moments for us as a community.
-Our biggest diplomatic request from the Vanuatu Government was a letter I wrote with the community to ask for the establishment of the Vanuatu Embassy in Wellington for primarily international relations with the New Zealand Government. The government has yet to repond to the letter.
-Our ongoing advocacy on a community level was liaising with the Pacific Minister to recognise, acknowledge and officially include the Melanesian Bislama, Tok Pisin and the Pijin languages as part of the New Zealand Pasifika Language Week. It is still a work in progress with all our supporting partners.
-We have continually strived to support our Members of the Parliament who come to meet with the New Zealand Government and that includes the Prime Minister. It has been a wonderful insight to diplomatic relations world and security.
-But more importantly as a community, we stuck together. We shared food, kava, stories of hope and strength, and the stories of inspirations and customs. Each year we would welcome our new students and friends into the community who remind us that it is still important to speak Bislama and of course our own dialects. Every year we gathered to celebrate our Independence Celebrations-Vanuatu Day falls on the 30th July each year. I will miss that terribly as I reminisce.
Let me leave you with the famous quote from Muhammed Ali,
“service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”
I hope you go out there and rise by lifting others up.