Simon Draper's February 2018 Update

Xin nian kuai le! Happy (Lunar) New Year! Two weeks into the Year of the Dog and the Year of the Monkey is now just a distant memory. February at the Foundation has been largely about gearing up for March, which is going to be a big month for us.

Firstly we have the Lantern Festivals, in Auckland this weekend and Christchurch the following.

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Get a taste of last year's Auckland Lantern Festival

Although the Foundation is changing from the hands-on role we’ve played in previous years to a sponsorship role, this year we’ve continued to be involved in organising the festivals’ international performers. The acts include a folk/rock band from Shaanxi Province in the South of China, a throat singer from Mongolia, an acrobatic troupe from Shanghai, and shadow puppet performers from Xi’ An. Thanks to Jennifer King for briefly coming out of retirement to coordinate this important aspect of the festival.

Between the two festivals, our education team will be taking the performers to schools in Auckland and Christchurch. For some of the kids, this will be their first first-hand experience of Chinese culture. If previous years are anything to go by, it will be an eye-opening experience for them and the performers alike. And while we’re on the topic of the Lantern Festival, make sure you enter our Lantern Festival competition and go in the draw to win two return flights to Shanghai, five night’s accommodation and $1000 spending money.

Honorary Advisers meeting in Auckland

The other big event in our calendar for March is the Honorary Advisers meeting in Auckland. Our honorary advisers are influential leaders in their respective fields who provide advice and Asia expertise to the Foundation.

This biennial event is important for us as it brings together our Asia and New Zealand-based honorary advisers to discuss how they can advocate for the Foundation and contribute towards us achieving our goal of helping New Zealanders thrive in Asia. It’s a privilege for us to be associated with them and we are most grateful for their ongoing support of the Foundation’s work. I look forward to letting you know how the meeting went in next month’s newsletter.

Business interns return from Asia

A young woman taking a selfie beside a lake with three friends behind her

Over the last few weeks, our Business interns have been returning from Asia after spending three months with companies in India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea. From their accounts, which we’ve been publishing on our website, it sounds like the past three months have been life-changing experiences for them all.

We had six interns in Taiwan when the 6.4 earthquake struck near the city of Hualien on February 6. Fortunately, they were all safely out of the danger zone and all but one slept through the early morning quake. The event provided us with an opportunity to test our response to emergency situations, and although we uncovered a few areas we could improve on, I’m pleased to say we came through pretty well. Within hours of the quake, we had touched base with the six interns and their hosts via various social media platforms and all reported in safe and sound.

Asia Media Centre seminar for journalists and academics

This month, the Asia Media Centre held a one-day seminar – Setting the Scene for 2018 – for media and academics in Wellington, focused on media coverage of current affairs in Asia.

More than 45 people attended over the course of the day and both journalists and academics responded positively about the contacts they gained and the quality of the discussions. This event was successful in helping grow the Asia Media Centre brand and we plan to hold similar seminars in the future, with Auckland and Christchurch as potential locations.

Mekong Track II to discuss regional issues

I touched upon it in my previous update, but March will also see our board’s deputy chairman Simon Murdoch lead a New Zealand Track II delegation to Thailand in for a Mekong Dialogue, with participants from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and China. 

Security, trade and sustainability will be on the agenda. The event seeks to help with ‘filling in some colour’ for this part of the world where we have at best some grey, or at worst just a stencilled outline. New Zealand wants, and indeed needs, to understand all of ‘Asia’ and the Mekong countries are a core part of that picture.

Fashion Entrepreneurs heading to Thailand

This month will also see our programme manager (entrepreneurship and leadership) Adam McConnochie take five emerging fashion entrepreneurs to Thailand as part of our ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI). During the week-long trip to Thailand the group will connect with fashion sector leaders from Thailand and the region. Previous ASEAN YBLI trips have led to collaboration and even business ventures for the Kiwi entrepreneurs, so I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of this trip.

Fashion entrepreneurs departing for Thailand in March attend pre-departure workshop

Staff changes - a welcome and a farewell

I’d like to round this message off by saying farewell to one staff member and welcoming aboard another.

Joining our ranks is Bo Bae Lee. Bo Bae is our new team administrator in Auckland and will be taking care of our business internship programme – no small task. Before joining the Foundation, Bo Bae managed volunteer programmes in South Korea. She can speak Mandarin, Korean and some Japanese.

And last but certainly not least, I’d like to say farewell to Monica Turner. After ten years with the Foundation our much esteemed colleague is moving on to focus on her family-run business. Monica has been acting director of culture since Jennifer King retired late last year. Previously, she managed the Foundation’s arts grants and residencies – developing them into two areas in which the Foundation is now seen as a leading light by the arts world. So, I like to say a big thankyou to Monica for all her hard work and wish her well with her future endeavours.

Simon Draper

28 February 2018