Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā e koro mā, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Tena tatou kātoa e huihui mai nei i te kaupapa o te ra. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings as we gather to celebrate those people who support Save the Children. I specifically acknowledge: Arthur Davis, National President; Vivien Sutherland Bridgewater, Chair; and Liz Gibbs, chief executive of Save the Children New Zealand respectively.
As joint Patrons of Save the Children New Zealand, it’s a great pleasure for Janine and me to welcome you all to Government House today.
From our corner of the Pacific, we hear about humanitarian emergencies taking place in other parts of the world – the conflict in Syria, the food crisis in West Africa, flooding in the Philippines. We despair for the human cost and the damage done to lives. We know children caught in these situations are suffering extreme hardship.
Some of us feel defeated by the scale of it all, turn away and carry on with our lives. Others though roll up our sleeves and say, ‘what shall we do to help?’ The people at Save the Children do that, they help and that is a good thing.
Founded in Britain in 1919, Save the Children shows what can be achieved when humanity prevails over prejudice and bias: considerations of race, belief and politics. Save the Children’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, famously stated: “The only international language is a child’s cry.” And it’s in this vein that Save the Children has striven to ensure children’s cries do not fall on deaf ears in the global community. Throughout its 93 years, Save the Children has responded to the greatest humanitarian emergencies. In the more recent past this has included the famine in Ethiopia during the 1980s, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the many conflicts throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
In bringing food, water and healthcare to victims of disaster, providing vaccinations and antibiotics, reuniting families, and helping children access education in safe learning environments Save the Children heeds the cries of children. It provides immediate relief and long-term programmes, tirelessly educates and advocates for children’s rights; ensuring the global community listens and acts.
Often it’s about doing seemingly small things. Imagine the joy of a child knowing that an organisation dedicated to its future is responsible for the help its family receives. Imagine the relief to parents and children after an earthquake like the one that hit Haiti, of simply having access to child-friendly spaces where children can play and socialise and feel a small sense of normality – and be supervised safely.
In 120 countries Save the Children is working towards a vision of “a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation”. And in New Zealand, New Zealanders are helping with working towards that vision too.
In New Zealand, Save the Children has operated since 1947, inspired by its New Zealand founder Minnie Havelaar, who dedicated the latter part of her life to it. The work of Save the Children New Zealand does her proud, helping children in New Zealand, the Pacific and Asia as well as in emergencies around the world.
Save the Children New Zealand is fundraising for the crises in Syria, West Africa and the Philippines. It is providing education programmes to children living in the Daulatdia brothel in Bangladesh, and helping children affected by flooding in Fiji.
This is all possible because of the loyal volunteers who give their time, knowledge and skills to fundraising, awareness raising and many other tasks, year after year. Our being here tonight is to give recognition to their wonderful contribution.
During my career with the New Zealand Defence Force, in places like Southern Lebanon, Bougainville and Timor-Leste, I encountered aid agencies and the volunteers who worked for them – sometimes in the most complex and dangerous environments. The dedication and courage of humanitarian groups showed humanity at its best.
I developed a deep respect for those out in the field, and also for those supporters back at home. All make significant efforts in their lives to help care and support others in need.
So to all the volunteers, donors and partners present tonight, to past and present members of the Board, and to the committed staff of Save the Children New Zealand: as Patrons of Save the Children New Zealand, Janine and I feel honoured to have this opportunity to convey to you our appreciation for the amazing job you are doing.
In the words of the renowned humanitarian Mahatma Gandhi: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.”
Those who do their work not expecting praise or recognition are also ‘great’. It is both sobering and heartening that last year the global Save the Children network directly assisted 35 million children. Save the Children New Zealand will continue to have a vital role to play living the vision of Save the Children in our own neighbourhood and further afield. And in doing so, all New Zealanders would join me in thanking you and wishing you well for the work, challenges and opportunities to come. Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.