Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet you and in the languages of the realm of New Zealand, English, Maori, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. Kia Ora, Kia Orana, Fakalofa Lahi Atu, Taloha Ni, Greetings to you all.
In particular I greet you VSA Chairman, Mr Farib Sos, you VSA President Mr Gavin Kerr, you VSA Chief Executive Debbie Snelson, and all of you VSA volunteers, partners, families and friends.
Thank you for the invitation here this evening to welcome the return of the VSA volunteers and to recognise the contribution they have made during their overseas postings. I am delighted to do this.
I have a huge admiration for the work of VSA volunteers, not only for the vital contribution you make as part of your own personal development, but also for the enormous good that you do for New Zealand's reputation and standing overseas. In preparation for this evening I have reflected on how apposite your vision statement on your letterhead is Te Tuao Tawahi, Te Tuao meaning in Maori, working temporarily for another person and Tawahi, meaning "on the other side of the sea or river or whatever". What a great coalescence of our country's two languages.
I have been personally aware of VSA's long reputation in the Pacific, but also I know from my briefing before tonight as to your work today, carries you much further afield.
I would also like to acknowledge the partners, families and friends whose support I know is invaluable during assignments. You are integral to the success of overseas postings and the work of VSA.
You are all part of a tremendous New Zealand tradition.
As many of you will be aware, VSA's Founding Chairman was Sir Edmund Hillary and for 45 years now, thousands of Kiwi volunteers have worked overseas and made a major individual and collective contribution to development in other countries.
By providing skills, knowledge and friendship, you are helping to create sustainable development in the communities and countries where you have made your home.
Your knowledge and involvement with local communities and the reputation you have created for New Zealanders is also of tremendous benefit to this country. I bring to mind the proverb or whakatauki in Maori which goes nau te rourou, naki te rourou, ka ora te iwi, which translated means "from my food bowl and the your food bowl the people will be fed."
The efforts of VSA volunteers helps to build our country's ongoing reputation for people with a can-do, enthusiastic, fair and friendly set of attitudes who will do their best to assist their fellow man or woman.
The reputation you help to establish reaches far beyond local communities to our national reputation as a country, and helps to stand us in good stead on the international stage.
So welcome back to each of the 30 people. It is good to see you, you have done us proud. I look forward to hearing you relate some of the stories through the course of the evening. Thank you all once again on behalf of the country for your outstanding contribution.
No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, kia ora koutou katoa