Aspiring Leaders Forum

22 May 2014

On 8 May, Jonelle Woon, a member of the National Youth Advisory Group, attended the Aspiring Leaders Forum. This forum brings together 100 young people to Wellington for four days to learn about values and faith.

Aspiring Leaders Forum - Written by Jonelle Woon

On 8 May I travelled down to Wellington to attend the 9th annual Aspiring Leaders Forum on faith and values. The experience was one like no other, 100 young leaders from all over New Zealand gathered in one room, one girl even came from Washington DC to attend the forum.

The forum was split up into small groups, my group was number seven. Once I found my group facilitator I made my way to the group and the usual questions arose ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What do you do?’ and then the question ‘What are you passionate about?’ popped up and that one I had to think about, it’s not something to take lightly. I am passionate about young people and them having a voice, one that will be heard, I also realise that finding your passion is a journey that I am still on and things might change.

There were 10 people in my small group including the facilitator. Over the four days we were at the forum, we went from being strangers to being close friends. We all shared our lives with each other and our stories which isn’t the easiest thing for some. Lets just say some tears were definitely shared.

Day One

On the first day we went to Parliament and witnessed Question Time which was very interesting to watch considering I don’t follow politics. We also got to know some Members of Parliament (MPs). Our group was introduced to Jan Logie MP and Catherine Delahunty MP. They opened up about their lives to us, answered questions like what has been your biggest regret , your failures, your success’. Our time with the MP’s was not about politics it was about their lives and their leadership roles and how they cope with it. Others MP’s included Te Ururoa Flavell MP , Melissa Lee MP , Mojo Mathers MP , Moana Mackey MP and Poto Williams MP. That night we had dinner at the beehive and listened to the keynote speaker Mark Powell CEO of The Warehouse.

Aspiring Young Leaders at opening in Grand Hall

Day Two

The second day we had breakfast at Parliament and listened to the keynote Paul Blackwell CEO of Pak’n’ Save and owner of the New Zealand Breakers Basketball team. Paul was very inspirational and addressed me personally. He told me ‘to always keep one foot in the door and not to let people from bigger towns scare you off.’ The next few hours were spent listening to different seminars from different MP’s. Mojo Mathers MP was one person I was amazed by. Mojo is the first and only deaf Member of Parliament. She told us about the struggles she had growing up and going into Parliament but she also shared how she overcame the barriers of being deaf. She was very inspirational. Later in the evening we got on buses and travelled out to the Hutt Indoor Sports Stadium where we played games of indoor netball and lawn bowls, which I can happily say I got quite good at.

Day Three

The Aspiring Young Leaders outside of Parliament

The third day we stayed at the hotel and attended different seminars. I attended Tommy Kapai Wilson's seminar, Tommy is the author of Kapai the Kiwi. He is one of the funniest and humblest people I have met. At lunch time we went out to Stokes Valley and undertook a community service project. The whole street was lined with young people helping clean up people’s properties. The property needed a bit of ‘tender loving care’. We pruned back the firewall, weeded gardens, chopped firewood, chain sawed trees and somehow temporarily broke the chainsaw. The community service project was enlightening and sweaty at the same time. That night we dressed up as cowboys and went out to Silverstream, were we had a massive barn dance. It was so awesome seeing everyone getting dressed up and dancing.

Day Four

Day four was full of hugs and goodbyes which were hard for everyone, to think I went to this forum not knowing anyone and I came out of it with a bunch of lifelong friends. It was a long four days, full of different inspirational speakers but I can blatantly say my inspiration was my team and the speakers were just a plus.

Over all my experience at the forum was amazing, inspirational, tiring and life changing. I would love to go back as a facilitator next year and I will never forget this experience.

Written by Jonelle Woon, Central South Youth Advisory Group member.