On 03 February 2023, the Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University and New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Peter Kell, conducted a dialogue with young Bangsamoro professionals to orient and invite them to apply for the Manaaki scholarship of the New Zealand government. The said scholarship aims to fund postgraduate studies and training of citizens from developing countries for them to have a positive impact on their country’s development by sharing new skills and knowledge gained from their studies abroad.

Data Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, Executive Director of the Al Qalam Institute, welcomed Ambassador Kell together with his team. In his welcome message, he said, “New Zealand is a proud and diverse nation that values freedom, equality, and justice for all its citizens, regardless of their background or beliefs. We believe in the importance of strong and meaningful relationships with our friends and partners around the world, and we are committed to working together to promote peace, prosperity, and understanding in Mindanao and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. ” He then explained the objective of the dialogue, which was “to promote Manaaki New Zealand Scholarships to Bangsamoro Young Professionals in Davao City and Mindanao.”

Ambassador Kell warmly greeted the young Bangsamoro professionals in Davao City and expressed his appreciation for the continued partnership and collaboration supporting the Bangsamoro peace process. He then proceeded to share with the participants the values and principles of the New Zealand government that give respect to every individual’s identity and space for the expression of their identity. He also said that the Manaki scholarship aims to invite more applicants from Mindanao and Bangsamoro region to give young Bangsamoro minds the opportunity to pursue their dreams, gain knowledge and create meaningful changes in their respective communities and as well as globally.

Ms. Dyan Rodriguez, New Zealand Aid Program Manager, said that the Manaki scholarship seeks to open the door to more options and possibilities for young professionals, particularly those coming from Mindanao and Bangsamoro. This could include the pursuit of higher education and career opportunities that are usually unattainable due to socioeconomic restraints and a lack of financial aid.  She also said that the scholarship aims to help these talented minds actualize their dreams, with the ultimate goal of creating a better future for all.

She also highlighted that the Manaaki Scholarship offers a unique combination of material, emotional and intellectual support for its recipients. They provide a wide range of access to resources—including mentorship, training, and guidance—to help the scholars achieve sustainable success. In addition, the scholarship will connect them to an international network of like-minded individuals, giving them a platform to continue learning and developing their talents. 

During the open forum, the feedback from the participants, mostly alumni of the Manaaki, affirmed that the scholarship creates positive and lasting changes in their communities, allowing them to pursue their dreams with confidence and success.

Overall, this dialogue was a great success. The partnership between the New Zealand Embassy and Al Qalam Institute is inspiring, and it will no doubt bring many new and exciting opportunities for young Bangsamoro professionals in the region. This scholarship signifies hope for a better future that is all the more attainable for everyone.