Leah Baterbonia came to New Zealand from the Philippines in 2007. She has postgraduate qualifications in management and in rural and international development, with a background in social and humanitarian services – professional skills and experience she employs in an impressive swag of volunteer roles alongside her full-time job as an aged care worker.
She is a Justice of the Peace, an interpreter/ translator, and a volunteer ambassador for the Philippine Embassy, which sees her work closely with the Philippine ambassador to NZ on language and cultural enhancement and exchange, and as an advocate and facilitator for the Filipino community, helping to connect people to different agencies and organisations. She’s on the board of the Hawke’s Bay Multicultural Association, teaches a Filipino language and culture class, and is developing a pilot cultural training programme in Hawke’s Bay high schools for youth empowerment.
Leah says simply, “I have a good heart for people,” and that receiving thanks is payment enough, that having a positive impact on people is satisfying.
Leah comes from a family of traditional politicians and community-minded people who made sacrifices for the greater good, in a country that has a long history of foreign invasion and colonisation. Her grandmother was killed by the Japanese during World War II for refusing to betray family members administering to local people against military wishes.
She speaks of ‘angkan diplomacy’ – angkan meaning family, tribe – and the responsibility to the collective that underpins Filipino culture. As with whānau in te ao Māori, the basic unit is the family in its broader, relational sense.
Not having had children herself means she has given more of her energy to her voluntary work, to serving other people.
She is inspired by those who work hard for the benefit of all without discrimination, and finds many examples of this ethic in Hawke’s Bay’s Filipino community, and among women who are balancing motherhood, career and community contributions.