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VOICES 2015: Text

Four youth leaders from across New Zealand attended the 2015 APEC CEO Summit held in Makati, Philippines. The delegates were part of the Voices of the Future programme and were invited to attended the annual CEO summit, where they were able to listen to and network with key leaders from each of the 21 APEC economies.

VOICES 2015: Image


The APEC Voices of the Future Programme was an experience that was second to none. Prior to arriving in the Philippines we never could have imagined what was in store for us. As young and aspiring leaders we learned about Asia-Pacific’s diverse cultures, ideas and concepts and were given the opportunity to network with high profiling CEO’s and world leaders. The experience can aptly be called a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” the programme has broadened our perspectives on the world and shown us that the sky really is the limit.


The 2015 APEC Voices Of the Future (VOF) programme took place on the 12-18 November, with 128 young leaders from 17 economies taking part in the programme. The diversity contributed by these countries, cultures and the students involved made the interaction and networking opportunities presented to us, both unique and beneficial. Although much was learnt throughout the conference the four most valuable experiences we took away from the Voices of the Future programme are the following:

  • The experience of Filipino Culture, Tradition, Dance, Food and Hospitality

  • The dialogue with ABAC members at the Fairmont Hotel, Makati

  • Field trip to Gawad Kalinga - Enchanted Farm

  • Spectating dialogue at the APEC CEO Summit ­­(a chance to attend at the CEO Summit, a gathering of APEC business and political leaders, who discussed a variety of issues pertinent to our region)

A taste of the Filipino culture and country

The Republic of the Philippines has a population of over 98 million, it is a breathtaking country which comprises of over 7000 Islands, situated in the Western-Pacific Ocean. The Philippines exhibited a diverse and privileged experience for the VOF delegates, its culture displayed a beautifully significant and distinguished Filipino and hispanic influence within cultural dances and traditions like fiesta (an event marked by festivities or celebration). The Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region at this time, due to the strong trade-relations with world power countries and the extent of exporting primary goods relating to manufacture and agriculture.

The voices of the Future Delegates had the privilege of experiencing the Ayala Museum, a informative yet captivating setting that showcased the journey and evolvement of the Filipino people and culture alongside Migration routes, cultural artifacts, traditional jewellery and garments, significant timeline events relating to colonisation and an array of mesmerizing art.  The indulgment and non-stop eating of delicious filipino cuisine was a constant reminder that food is something that can really bring parties together, as we were fed at least 6 times a day.

The exposure to Filipino Culture, Tradition, Dance, Food and Hospitality has resonated the importance of culture and how it is a form of empowerment which aids the positive growth of self-identity and subsequently self-worth.

Special session: Dialogue with ABAC members at the Fairmont Hotel, Makati

On day 2 we were given the opportunity to have very own special dialogue session with the ABAC members. This opportunity was unique as youth delegates got the opportunity to deliver first-hand the issues that they felt were pertinent to youth in Asia Pacific region. 5 delegates from Canada, China, Peru, Singapore and oUSA got the opportunity to address overarching concerns that represented our delegation, these included sustainability and the call for action on climate change and allowing a better connection between the youth and nature, governmental investment in human capital in relation to better quality education for youth to be able to have a brighter future, creation of innovation ecosystems to allow youth to benefit from the future digital age, sustaining growth opportunities to improve regional growth and enhancing regional trade agreements to help SMEs benefit from international trade.

The questions asked were taken by the ABAC members as very impressive and the responses given were comprehensive and constructive. It was very interesting to hear the different perspectives from the various ABAC members on these matters. The opportunity to ask questions to such high caliber business leaders gave a sense that youth are in fact being taken seriously and provided a sense of additional self empowerment.

Field Trip to Gawad Kalinga - Enchanted Farm

Another highlight was the field trip to visit Gawad Kalinga, a Community Development Foundation making significant waves in the field of Poverty Alleviation. The organisation aims to bring five million families out of poverty by 2024 and has already succeeded in raising one million Filipino out of extreme poverty in the Philippines. The organisation was founded by Antonio Meloto or “Tito Tony,” a successful Filipino entrepreneur with a background in economics and a heart for helping those trapped in systemic poverty. Gawad Kalinga aims to help, educate and train people to help themselves by building integrated, holistic and sustainable communities for those formerly dwelling in slum areas.

As VOF delegated we were treated to a VIP visit to the Enchanted Farm, where we not only had the chance to meet the incredibly inspiring Antonio Meloto, but were able to hear and see how the organisation has achieved such remarkable results. Meloto maintains the key to eliminating poverty lies in enabling the youth and young leaders. With this in mind the organisation has a constant stream of talented young entrepreneurs (many of which are still studying at some of the world's top Universities) which partner with and mentor young Filipino entrepreneurs, who have created enterprises that employ those removed from the slums.

We were all given a tour around the farm and were able to see, talk to and be inspired by the amazing stories of poverty, survival and success that those living on the farm have experienced. The farm produces a wide variety of produce and we were able to visit the small businesses operating within its walls, many of which are extremely successful and continuing to expand. The model Gawad Kalinga perfected is now being implemented in nearly 2,000 communities in the Philippines and further afield in other developing countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

It was incredibly inspiring to see young people our age making such a widespread, positive difference in the world. The foundation emphasised its desire to continue expanding and alleviating poverty, highlighting their enthusiasm to accept further volunteers and particularly University students, to take part in internships and exchanges. After hearing that Australian Universities have just begun offering students exchanges to the farm as part of their curriculum (along with British, French, German and US Universities) we were given the details of the Internship Director and sincerely hope to see other young New Zealand entrepreneurs take up the opportunity… at least two of us are already considering a second visit to the Philippines after the experience.

Spectating dialogue at the APEC CEO Summit

For the final three days of the Voices programme, we were privileged to spectate the APEC CEO Summit and were given insight into the dialogues between Political Leaders and CEOs. Their discussions emphasized the need for harnessing the power of technology to overcome issues facing our respective economies, but also to promote open economies and investment in developing member economies. Seeing Prime Minister John Key speak about trade agreements and New Zealand’s position within them made the delegation realize how fortunate New Zealand is to have trade relationships with many APEC member economies, as trade is essential in the running of our economy. US President Barack Obama spoke about the need for member economies to focus on the issue of Global Warming to ensure that we can achieve the goal of sustainable and resilient growth in the future.These discussions aligned with our discussions over the first few days of the Voices programme about using technology and the internet to solve issues, but also to educate people on more efficient (both environmentally and socially as well as economically) ways of growing the member economies in the APEC region.

Further insights to bring back to New Zealand

As with any experience involving numerous cultures and country, the strengths and weakness of your own country become evident when contrasted with other countries. The New Zealand student delegation was incredibly well-liked and as students and made many many genuine friendships among the other delegates, and learned a lot from each other. We also discovered our openness and genuineness strengths in both networking and leadership opportunities during the conference. It was however evident that many of the other student delegates (particularly those from the United States) were well trained in oral presentation skills and speech-making. As students we remarked that young New Zealanders (particularly those entering the business or political spheres) would benefit from programmes similar to those currently existing in US Universities, which produce confident and competent public speakers.

We also found the diversity of our own cultural, academic and geographical backgrounds an advantage. Having representatives from all over New Zealand and from a wide range of study fields gave us an advantage as a team and allowed each of us to contribute their strengths to the team. Bradleigh and Faiz’s musical talents also came in particularly valuable when it came time to perform a 5 minute cultural performance at the closing ceremony. We discussed after the event that if future conferences had similar requirements it would be much more impressive if the group were able to take traditional maori dress to perform in, as many other countries did.


We would like to thank our trip educators Catherine Wilson and Martin Mariassource for taking care of and supiporting us during the programme. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the Voices of the Future organisers James, Aileen, Pengru (Singapore), Christine Violago (Chair VOTF Philippines working committee) and her team who ensured that the VOTF programme was action packed and smooth running for the duration of the week.

We would also like to thank Prime Minister John Key and NZ business leaders Stephen Jacobi, Tony Nowell and Catherine Rich who took time out of their busy schedules to meet and discuss matters in relation to APEC with us during summit week.Finally we would all like to acknowledge the respective organisations who sponsored our travels; AUT University of Technology, Education NZ, MFAT Seriously Asia and Victoria University. Your sponsorship has provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity which  has widened our perspectives and provided an event that we shall never forget.

VOICES 2015: List

Kendra Titheridge - The University of Canterbury

Being a representative of both my university and country at the 2015 APEC VOF conference was the highlight of my university career. As a political science student I cannot believe I had the chance to contribute to the discussion surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals, the involvement of youth in the development of the Asia-Pacific and the chance to network and share ideas with many of the world's most influential minds. I immensely enjoyed the conference focus, which the Philippines often directed towards the elimination of poverty and the resilience of communities, issues which I too am passionate about, hoping to move into the field of development in the future.

One of the most inspiring days of the conference centred around social entrepreneurship and how young leaders can influence the future, as well as helping those around them. To see some evident progress in the region we all went on a field trip to Gawad Kalinga, which is both a farm and a hub for young entrepreneurs, where we learned about how the organisation has lifted over 1 million Filipino people out of poverty. The greatest discovery of all, the visionary behind the organisation is predominantly using young university students and young Filipino to dramatically improve the region's future. My take-away quote from the experience has to be an amazing piece of advice given by a very successful entrepreneur- your mission is to solve problems, go out there and find them, and fix them… and don’t give up along the way, because it’s tough but it’s worth it.

Maisie Prior - Victoria University of Wellington

Attending the APEC VOF 2015 conference as the representative from Victoria University was an invaluable experience, and one that has helped affirm and shape my future studies.  It was incredible to have discussions amongst the other youth delegates on their perspectives of how youth can contribute to sustainable and resilient economic growth, as well as forming networks and friendships with the delegates.  Coming to the conference as an Economics and Public Policy student, the CEO summit was fascinating, and it was interesting to hear discussions about how member economies can work together, and individually, to “build the future” in a sustainable way. I would love to be involved in the making of policies and agreements between member economies once I have completed my studies. Visiting the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm opened my eyes to social entrepreneurship and how youth can assist in helping individuals and communities out of poverty.  Seeing the willingness to learn and resilience of members of the farm made me realize that there is a huge role for youth from universities in New Zealand in such a programme, and would love to become involved in volunteer work overseas. The wide range of experiences offered through the conference, as well as the hospitality of our hosts in the Philippines, made the trip unforgettable.

Bradleigh Cherrington - AUT

Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere. Engari, ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga, nōna te ao.

(The one who partakes of the flora and fauna, that will be their domain. The one who engages in education, opportunities are boundless.)

APEC 2015 was a lifechanging experience! Actually getting to know other youth delegates enabled the creation of a huge networking environment from all over the Asia-Pacific. Whilst attending the event I was exposed to some of the most influential political and business related leaders. Being able to see these leaders in person made me realise that these people are also human just like myself, giving me a sense of empowerment and inspiration to know that I too could potentially rise to these levels. The accessibility to all of the sessions at the CEO summit exceeded my expectations, the involvement of the youth within these sort of settings bought a new perspective and element of self belief. As New Zealand delegates we were able to provide a unique perspective on a lot of the discussions due to our diverse and somewhat isolated country. Studying a BA in Maori Development at AUT University of Technology has aided me with knowledge and passion to help in my own backyard or community, however since I have returned from Manila, I have found that I would like to partake in International volunteering in a few years to also help and support other people and countries to contribute on an international scale, this was inspired by one of the experiences I had at Gawad Kalinga Farm in the Philippines. I have also began to question my academic pathway and have began thinking about the NZ political Arena as a future goal for myself.

Faiz Salim - Watercare

APEC 2015 was for me definitely a life changing experience. One outstanding element that stood out right from the very start was hospitality provided by the Filipino delegates and the warmth and welcoming spirits shown by the other APEC youth delegates. The forum was an ideal environment for youth to share and express their concerns about a growing Asia Pacific region and provided a great platform for international networking opportunities. Taking part in talks and group activities with the other delegates gave me an insight into the different ways people think and taught me a lot about different cultures, it certainly allowed me to broaden my thinking. The atmosphere of the whole summit was brilliant, day after day I was continually entering into interesting and intellectual discussions with fellow youth delegates relating to international trade, sustainability and other adverse issues that the Asia Pacific region faces in achieving inclusive growth.

Attending the CEO summit was the highlight of my trip. Observing the world’s most influential and successful political and world business leaders in action was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Hearing their stories and how they rose to success has definitely shown me that with hard work, determination, and allowing yourself to dream that the sky’s the limit.

Visiting Gawad Kalinga (a social entrepreneurial community) and observing the social enterprise initiatives that they are implementing made me think of ways for our tribe could adopt some of these initiatives back on our home lands in the Kaipara. By doing so we could further improve the livelihood of our people, create jobs and improve their knowledge and skills, enabling them to sustain themselves for the future.

VOICES 2015: List
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