For the Passchendaele centenary national commemoration, Wellington Girls' College student Brooke Kinajil-Moran prepared a speech inspired by the compassion shown by New Zealanders 100 years ago.
I’ve grown up in a world rife with international conflict. In the globalised society we live in today, headlines are rampant with hateful disputes. As I, and many of my peers, reach the culmination of our schooling and embark upon our adult lives, shining the light of compassion into such a world has never been more relevant or integral.
The compassion that we must aspire to uphold in today’s global landscape was embodied to its fullest by the support, loyalty and kinship shown by New Zealanders towards Belgian refugees and war victims during the time of the Battle of Passchendaele. Even as New Zealand was shaken with tragedy and heartbreak in the face of 3700 casualties, selflessness remained dauntless. When Belgium was under threat, New Zealanders ran to their side with intrepid altruism.
On behalf of today’s youth of New Zealand, I would like to give thanks. Thanks to the Belgian Relief fund, who garnered £805,000 in donations, or $100 million by today’s standards. Thanks to the thirty three women who received the Queen Elisabeth Medal – which was instituted by the Belgian government in 1916 to honour women who had valiantly performed exceptional services in support of displaced Belgians. Among those 33 women, Mary Ann Wick, selling vegetables from her garden, or Elizabeth Pinfold who set up the Belgian Relief fund and proceeded to write to newspapers all over the country to call for donations. Thanks to the Otago and Southland Women’s Patriotic Association, led by Mary Downie Stewart in working bees and Red Cross efforts. Thanks to all of the women and children who tirelessly donated their time, efforts and livelihoods to the war cause.
During a grave situation of horror and tragedy, the compassion of New Zealanders shined through. I only hope that in today’s world, my generation will take note and follow suit, providing the light of compassion, kindness and kinship wherever darkness may prevail.