Simon Draper's April 2020 Update

Kia ora koutou friends of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. Like other New Zealanders, Foundation staff are now approaching their fourth week working remotely. We’re in our homes in Christchurch, Wellington, Taranaki and Auckland, and I’m pleased to say that our communications are functioning well.

Like others, we’re gradually getting more adept at video conferencing. However, some of our response times will be slower than normal as we juggle various challenges like technology and childcare.  

It’s been a very difficult time for many of our friends in New Zealand, Asia and beyond as we all grapple with great uncertainty. We extend our thoughts to those who have been directly affected by COVID-19, or have family members and friends who have been affected. And we would also like to acknowledge those working in essential services, and others - including members of our Leadership Network – who have been taking the initiative to help vulnerable groups.

Nive Sharat Chandran (right) is one of a number of Leadership Network members helping out in her community during the lockdown

The situation in Asia – as with elsewhere in the world – continues to change rapidly and countries in the region are responding in a range of ways. Keep an eye on our Asia Media Centre for the the latest developments.

In the weeks leading up to the introduction of the New Zealand Government’s COVID-19 alert levels, the Foundation’s focus was on ensuring the immediate needs of our programme participants and ensuring their health and safety.

As one example, we brought home all New Zealand interns who were in Asia before travel restrictions were put in place. Although COVID-19 meant they had to curtail their time in the region, and impacted their overall experiences, it’s been encouraging to read their reports and hear about the value they gained through their internships – newfound understanding, knowledge, confidence and friendship. I'd like to personally thank them for the professional way they responded to this disruption. 

Our focus has now turned to planning for the months ahead. Border restrictions may mean we don’t have the opportunity to run experiential programmes in Asia for a while, or bring guests from Asia to New Zealand. But the Asia New Zealand Foundation still has an important role to play in building international relationships and helping New Zealanders grow their knowledge and understanding of Asia.

The need for a nuanced understanding of the region hasn’t diminished – New Zealand will need to be connected to its Asian neighbours as we eventually move into economic and social recovery.  

The Foundation can’t work in exactly the same way we have previously when it comes to our mission of “equipping New Zealanders to thrive in Asia”. But there are still lots of ways that we can help New Zealanders grow their knowledge, and much of our work – for instance, the Asia Media Centre, education resources and our research programme – is continuing largely as usual.  

In other areas, we’re having to make some changes to adapt to the new environment, and we’re spending this time getting ready to ramp up our activity once we are able to. Please do get in touch if you would like to share any ideas.  

We have also been working with our partner organisations and Foundation grantees to support them as they adjust to disruptions to their own work. It’s been encouraging to see some of our partners coming up with innovative ways of running events, and hearing about other plans as they emerge. 

Finally, there are still lots of opportunities to learn about Asia within your home environment – including through your television, as I wrote in my Stuff column published earlier this week.

 We’re looking forward to sharing some other ideas in the weeks ahead. In the interim, I hope you are taking care of yourselves and those around you. 
Noho ora mai

Simon Draper

P.S the photo in the banner at the top of this page was taken by one of our staff members, Alexis Allen, who is isolating with her family in Taranaki.