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Meet the leaders at the Asia-Pacific program design workshop Hawaiʻi

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The 21 leaders joining us for the design workshop that kicked off on Friday, January 4, hail from 16 countries and territories from across the Asia Pacific and have a diverse mix of experiences and backgrounds that will spark deep conversation and opportunities to learn from each other as they explore solutions to shared challenges. Get to know more about their work and their participation in the workshop below.

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Annabelle Kwok – Singapore

"I like being able to use tech for good. I felt the need to do something to help people, so I decided to apply my tech skills to help organizations build the tools they need to help others."

Annabelle is a mathematician and A.I. practitioner and is a big proponent of building meaningful technologies for an inclusive society. She believes we’re now within a small window of opportunity to shape data governance and regulations in the ASEAN region; cautioning against the possibility of a future where increasing technological disparity might just create the most unequal society that has ever existed.

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shirt smiling toward the camera.
Ben Jie Lim – Malaysia

"Meeting people across different countries, from Malaysia to India to the United Kingdom, and seeing similarities between different cultures is eye opening and the best part about my work."

Ben Jie Lim works at AirAsia as an Executive Assistant to the Group CEO. His lifelong passion is in aviation, and he’s driven by the belief that mobility brings people of different nationalities and cultures together, which leads to greater understanding and peace across the world. Lim calls Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia home but travels frequently across continents. He believes every person has hidden or unfulfilled potential as well an ability to lead. He hopes to work with the great talent and leadership in Asia Pacific to tackle challenges that will affect our lives and those of future generations.

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shirt smiling toward the camera.
Chaya Chansmitmas – Thailand

"My favorite part of my work is using different technologies to deliver better services and to help people get access to the tools and knowledge they need to make better decisions."

Chaya is the Head of Business Development at BigPay, an ASEAN fintech that strives to increase financial access and literacy throughout the region. Chaya has over 8 years of experience in applying various technologies to enhance service level or operational efficiencies. He hopes that scalable and automated technologies will help improve financial inclusion and equity and lead to greater resilience in and well-being of the region.

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Ihakara (Kara) Puketapu-Dentice – New Zealand

"I believe all of us are connected in one way or another. What’s really special about being in Hawaiʻi for this convening is my spiritual connection to this land. My ancestors came from Hawaiʻi to New Zealand."

Kara Dentice was born and raised in a little town in Wellington, New Zealand called ‘Wainuiomata’. His upbringing was grounded in the practice of service to his community, to his iwi (tribe), hapu (sub-tribe), whanau (family), whenua (environment) and the world around him. Driven by these values, Kara is an active leader on tribal governance to on-the-ground community projects and activities. He is hopeful that his work can inspire a greater sense of reconnection between communities and the people who live in them, as well as between communities and the environments that nourish them.

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shirt with a Hawaiian design smiling toward the camera.
Julian Aguon – Guam

"I couldn’t imagine anything more meaningful than being able to safeguard the rights of vulnerable communities throughout this region, especially indigenous communities."

Julian Aguon is a human rights lawyer breaking new ground at the intersection of international indigenous rights and environmental law. A native son of Guam, Aguon founded his own law firm at the age of 28 to advocate for the myriad peoples of the Pacific region. His firm, Blue Ocean Law, works across multiple jurisdictions and develops innovative legal strategies to advance the efforts towards self-determination of native and non-self-governing peoples. He is also an adjunct law professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law (UH-Manoa), where he teaches Pacific Island Legal Systems.

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at the camera.
Junting (Catherine) Zhang – China

"I am passionate about finding ways to give back to society and preserving Chinese cultures and ethnicities."

Catherine Zhang is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and venture investor in Asia and North America. She is the Vice President of Global Business Management at Rockcheck Group, a fortune 500 Chinese company. Zhang is committed to philanthropy and charity efforts and encourages philanthropy among young Chinese leaders. She has built schools and educational exchanges in China and has supported social entrepreneurship projects in Kenya to provide young local entrepreneurs with learning platforms and business opportunities.

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shirt smiles toward the camera.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner – Marshall Islands

"In a lot of societies, art and poetry is considered to be a garnish—something pretty to add on to something—and that’s just not true. It has the capacity to heal. I see that with the young people I work with in the Marshall Islands."

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet, artist, and director for Marshall Islands-based nonprofit Jo-Jikum, which trains and educates young people on the global impacts of climate change. Her work focuses on using poetry and art to raise awareness around the nuclear legacy of the Marshall Islands and its impact on the climate. Kathy hopes the Pacific Islands can work together to tackle issues that impact the region and wants to create space for collective conversations to facilitate community growth, resilience, and liberation through art, science, and conservation across islands and traditions.

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posing at the camera.
Khin Thazin Myint – Myanmar

"I hope my work can inspire others to promote political rights and civil liberties in the Asia-Pacific region."

Khin Thazin Myint has been the Country Representative of Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy’s Myanmar country office since 2012. She works to empower government leaders to better serve their people by embracing the democratic process. Before that, she worked at an award-winning social enterprise designing products and services to help rural families in Myanmar get the resources they need.

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Leanne Kealoha Fox – Hawaiʻi

"I’m a mother, innovator, and strive for Kūlia—improvement and excellence—in everything I do."

Kealoha Fox is Ka Pou Kākoʻo Nui of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Office of the CEO and provides executive leadership to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaiʻi. Kealoha is active in the government sector, including serving as a State of Hawaiʻi Climate Mitigation & Adaptation Commissioner, City & County of Honolulu Resilient Oʻahu Working Group member, and an Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum board director. Kealoha’s work strives to uplift the time-tested wisdom of her Hawaiian ancestors through collaboration and cutting-edge innovation. She is passionate about equity and embraces the interrelationship of how we steward our natural resources and fulfill the responsibility of caring for those most in need.

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Linda Saya – Cambodia

"I am passionate about promoting understanding of the ASEAN region among civil servants and to provide better public services for people who need them."

Linda Saya is currently employed as Deputy Chief Office of Administration and Protocol at Cambodia’s Ministry of Civil Service and works on ASEAN civil service matters, civil service operations, and government reforms on administration, transparency and decentralization. She seeks to reduce and combat corruption in her community.

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at the camera.
Marvin (Kaleo) Manuel – Hawaiʻi

"As a planner, it’s exciting to have the opportunity to help thoughtfully and meaningfully design a program that will impact leaders across the Asia-Pacific region."

Kaleo Manuel is the Acting Planning Program Manager with the Hawaiʻi Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, a 200,000 acre trust established by Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole and the United States Congress. He leads a team of planners and community development specialists who create affordable housing and homestead communities for native Hawaiians across the state. Evolving from a land use focus, Kaleo has focused on bringing planning and indigenous expertise to the fields of water advocacy and management in Hawaiʻi. Through his work, Kaleo hopes to empower, inspire, and reconnect indigenous, island, Pacific, and world communities to the truth that Ola i ka wai, "water is life."

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Maw Htun Aung – Myanmar

"Sometimes you don’t see quick results in my work, but the engagement I get to do with key stakeholders in different areas is one of my favorite parts about it."

Maw Htun is the Country Manager of Natural Resource Governance Institute for Myanmar and serves as a strategic adviser for a local think tank, Another Development. He works with government, private sector, and civil society to improve the natural resource governance in Myanmar. As Myanmar faces dual uphill battles in political transition and policy reform, he hopes that improving natural resource governance will help his country in both peacebuilding and achieving sustainable development outcomes.

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toward the camera.
Nurul Amalina Che Ariffin – Malaysia

"Across the region, we have more in common than we think, and that keeps me motivated to foster cross-cultural collaboration between nations to advance the region."

Amalina Ariffin is the YSEALI Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Prior to working with the U.S. Embassy, Ariffin practiced law, specializing in criminal litigation at a law firm until she was called to the Malaysian bar in early 2017. Motivated by her passion for environmental protection and human rights, she volunteered at the Sabah Wildlife Rescue Unit and the South African Human Rights Commission.

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Rahman Adi Pradana – Indonesia

"Getting to see the impact of my work on the ground is incredible. I go to a lot of villages and it’s special to see for myself how important it is to community members to preserve their lands. It’s an honor I get to help them achieve it."

Adi Pradana serves as the Sustainable Land Use Manager of WRI Indonesia where he leads multiple teams to manage multi-million dollar grants in implementing Indonesia’s One Map Policy – a critical land use governance reform agenda to improve the management of data and maps used for land-based licensing, spatial planning, and agrarian reform. Pradana conducts this work by collaborating with national and sub-national government agencies, the private sector, civil societies, journalists, and indigenous communities.

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Sanae Ogino – Japan

"As a native of Hiroshima, my hope is to create a network of young people who can take action together to build a more peaceful world, spreading the atomic bomb survivors’ message that ‘no one should ever suffer as we have’ along the way."

Sanae Ogino currently works at the Mayors for Peace secretariat, which is composed of over 7,600 member cities from 163 countries and regions. She leads efforts in bringing Japanese high school students to United Nations offices to learn about the international state of disarmament. Through programs that organize and prepare young people to make strong pleas to UN officials for a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons, Ogino empowers the next generation to actively promote peace.

In this portrait, a woman with a medium-light skin tone and dark hair wears a white blouse smiles toward the camera.
Sheina Marie Onrubia – Philippines

"I interact with people from really different backgrounds and experiences, and being able to bring out the best in everyone I come across is one of the most meaningful parts of the work I do."

Sheina Marie Onrubia is a third term city council member of Tabaco City, Albay. She is the current floor leader of the city council and focuses on city gender and development issues. Onrubia chairs multiple city council committees, including health and social services, women and family, and sustainable development goals. Her legislative agenda focuses on good governance, youth development, health and social services, women empowerment, and values formation.

In this portrait, a woman with a medium-light skin tone and dark hair wears a dark button-up shirt smiles toward the camera.
Sosamphan Thongvone – Lao People's Democratic Republic

"I love working with young people like me who have so much passion. I’m privileged to be the first person to engage with these people and serve as the entry point to helping young people realize their biggest dreams."

Sosamphan currently serves as the Press and Information Officer at the European Union Delegation to Laos where she is in charge of promoting diplomacy between European Union and Lao Government. She enjoys being able to work with young leaders, filmmakers, journalists, artists, and entrepreneurs on topics ranging from wildlife conservation and deforestation to the Mekong region, and she hopes to see Laotians fulfill their dreams with the help of the Lao government and society.

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Tahere Siisiialafia – Samoa

"Intergenerational connection is powerful, and for me seeing beliefs and traditions passed down from mother to daughter, generation to generation is a great example of the approach I value so much about my work."

Tahere Siisiialafia is a Samoan native and sociology lecturer at the National University of Samoa. She has been involved in community development since her early adolescent years, a passion that was fostered by her Bahai Faith. Siisiialafia is currently the Chairperson for the Pacific Youth Council and often uses a variety of regional and global platforms to advocate for youth development in the Pacific region.

In this portrait, a woman with a medium-light skin tone and dark hair wears a patterned blouse smiles toward the camera.
Thuy Ngoc Tu Ngo – Vietnam

"We teach K-12 students English and critical thinking, but we also teach them how to believe in the power inside themselves. As they grow and go through school, it's beautiful to see them embrace their own power to make an impact."

Tu Ngo is an education and tech entrepreneur who is committed to developing human potential. After graduating college in 2009, Tu Ngo co-founded Your Online Learning Assistant (YOLA), the fastest growing education company in Vietnam providing English and critical thinking skills training both online and offline. YOLA currently serves over 30,000 students. Tu Ngo also helped found ELSA, an English pronunciation training mobile app with more than 4 million downloads worldwide.

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Viria Vichit-Vadakan – Thailand

"I am deeply committed to educational improvement and equity in my work, and I value learning from others working on similar issues to improve current solutions."

In Thailand, Viria Vichit-Vadakan started a social enterprise accelerator called "G-Lab" and co-founded a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree program in global studies and social entrepreneurship at the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University. Vichit-Vadakan most recently worked with Learn Corporation, an educational technology company leveraging blended-learning technology by partnering with more than 150 schools to improve teacher quality and student outcomes.

In this portrait, a man with a medium skin tone and dark hair wears a dark blue button up shirt smiles toward the camera.
Zhi Wei Timothy Low – Singapore

"I believe in the power of activated groups of people coming together to make ground-up change, and I hope to build up more youth to take up the call of duty for impact in their region."

Timothy Low serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Halogen Foundation, where he strives to make quality character education accessible and available to all youth, regardless of background, and equip them to engage in pragmatic leadership around issues about which they are passionate.

You can see highlights from the design workshop and learn more about the Asia-Pacific Leaders program here.

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