PHL Ambassador hosts thanksgiving dinner for Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
It was a most meaningful and heart-warming evening when CARITAS Aotearoa New Zealand Director Ms. Julianne Hickey, CARITAS Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Mark Mitchell, CARITAS Advocacy and Research Manager Ms. Lisa Beech, CARITAS Communications Advisor Ms. Hanna Butler, CARITAS Programme Director Mr. Leo Duce and Mission NZ National Director Fr. Bernard Espiritu SVD graced the thanksgiving dinner hosted by Ambassador Benavidez at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s residence) on 23 January 2013 to reiterate the Filipino people’s gratitude to CARITAS Aotearoa for the work they do for those affected by typhoon Haiyan and to hear from them their experiences, insights and interaction as they carried out CARITAS’ humanitarian mission in Central Philippines. In warmly welcoming them at “Ang Bahay”, Ambassador Benavidez said that the Filipino people’s hearts are deeply moved by the outpouring of support and solidarity from New Zealanders people from other countries, organizations, governments, schools, communities and various sectors worldwide. CARITAS’ mission and vision constitute the heartbeat of true and sacrificial service in the spirit of sharing and caring to help make a positive, distinctive and practical difference in people’s lives. “With CARITAS Aotearoa NZ and CARITAS Philippines and its partners actively involved in the recovery and rebuilding efforts and spiritual upliftment in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan, they continue to bring hope and strength to the multitudes of Filipinos who fought so hard and so well to stay alive,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.
During the lively fellowship around the dinner table, Mr. Mark Mitchell shared his first-hand five-week experience as Head of the Emergency Response and Support Team working on the ground with CARITAS Philippines and other partners supporting the massive relief efforts in areas devastated by typhoon Haiyan. He paid tribute to the dedication and commitment of the Team, the resiliency, fortitude and positive and respectful demeanour of Filipinos as they cope with the daily challenges and help in the rebuilding and restoration efforts and the continuing transformation and improvement of communities with aid coming from the Philippine government, partner countries and donor organizations. His personal and moving write-up on how he carried out his mission with his dedicated and committed Team members and the response he got from the Filipinos can be read in Caritas Aotearoa NZ Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/caritasaotearoa) posted on 21 December 2013. There were enriching interaction and animated discussion among the guests focusing on the multi-stakeholder and multi-dimensional reconstruction, rebuilding and restoration of homes, schools, livelihood, infrastructure, telecommunication facilities as well as the Filipinos’ unshakeable faith in GOD, remarkable resiliency and steadfast hope amidst the rubble and the ruins which proved far stronger than the biggest storm ever recorded and one of the worst tragedies that the world has ever seen. The spirit of “Bayanihan” (volunteerism and coming together) among Filipinos, New Zealanders and people around the world demonstrated humanity’s overflowing kindness, generosity and empathy and the triumph of the collective and individual goodness, graciousness, support and sympathy amidst the trials and tragedies following an unprecedented and unimaginable disaster caused by super typhoon Haiyan.
Ms. Lisa Beech gave a touching and much applauded rendition of a nationalistic Filipino song entitled “Bayan Ko” (My Country) as she played the violin with Ambassador Benavidez, the Filipino guests and the Philippine Embassy and “Ang Bahay” staff singing from their hearts. Ms. Julianne Hickey spoke in behalf of CARITAS Aotearoa New Zealand to thank Ambassador Benavidez for the enjoyable and memorable get-together and Filipino hospitality and the wonderful opportunity to share the life-changing work of CARITAS in carrying out its GOD-given mission throughout the world. She presented Ambassador Benavidez a CARITAS Guide on the Lenten Reflection Programme 2014 entitled “A Horizon Of Hope”. As a token of appreciation, Ambassador Benavidez gave souvenir T-shirts with the message of collective and immediate help to the people affected by super typhoon Haiyan. The singing of a Waiata song entitled “Te Aroha” a distinctive Maori way of conveying love, support and gratitude capped an evening to remember with good friends and vital partners in Aotearoa.