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Four influential young Kiwis to represent New Zealand on the world stage at APEC Voices of the Future 2021

From left: Jess Jenkins, Lit Wei Chin, Shisla Macleod and Sophie Handford.
From left: Jess Jenkins, Lit Wei Chin, Shisla Macleod and Sophie Handford.


6 October 2021

Four influential young Kiwis have been chosen to represent New Zealand at APEC Voices of the Future in November.

The annual youth event brings together 18 to 24-year-olds from across the APEC region to discuss the big issues facing the world and have their voices heard. At the end of the 2021 event, they will present their Declaration to APEC 2021 Chair, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on behalf of the nearly one billion young people across the APEC region.

The event will take place on November 9 and 10 in Auckland and is a part of APEC Leaders’ Week, the culmination of New Zealand’s hosting of APEC 2021.

The four New Zealand Voices of the Future representatives are:

  • Lit Wei Chin from Auckland
  • Sophie Handford from Wellington
  • Jess Jenkins from Wellington
  • Shisla Macleod from Auckland, now living in Wellington

Organised by APEC Voices New Zealand and Auckland University of Technology (AUT), with support from APEC New Zealand and APEC Voices Secretariat, this year’s Voices summit will focus on four key themes – international co-operation to combat COVID-19, the digital future, a greener future and a future for all.

The New Zealand delegates will work with representatives from around the APEC region taking part in the virtual event.

New Zealand’s representatives:

Lit Wei Chin – the ex-Birkenhead College student (24) is a climate change and sustainability executive for Auckland Unlimited. With a BSc (Hons) in geography from the University of Auckland, Lit Wei has a particular interest in climate change. He’s excited to be part of Voices and says: “Young people should have a voice at the table...The world is suffering from the effects of climate change. We have the opportunity to make it right and recover from the COVID-19 crisis by working together to transition our economies to a greener and more digital future for all.” 

Sophie Handford – the former head girl at Kapiti College (20) came to national attention as the co-ordinator of the School Strike 4 Climate NZ in 2019. Later that year  Sophie was elected to the Kapiti Coast District Council at the age of 18. She also works as MP support to Otaki MP Terisa Ngobi. Sophie says: “Young people inherit the decisions made now. We are the ones who will have to navigate our careers through the currently intensifying challenges in our midst. What brings me hope is thinking of the potential in bringing together young people from across the APEC economies who will think beyond constraints; of systems, processes, power, anything and everything!”

Jess Jenkins – Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa. The winner of the Race Unity Speech Awards in 2020 is now national co-ordinator at Race Unity Aotearoa. A resident of Titahi Bay in Porirua, Jess (18) left Tawa College last year and was accepted into Harvard University but has put those plans on hold for a year due to COVID-19. She now plans to be a Harvard graduate in 2026. An advocate for inclusivity and diversity, Jess says she wants a future where “economies can thrive alongside and not in spite of each other, a place where the success of one is not dependent on the downfall of others, where we stand in harmony with our planet. When we work together, adapt and create, our economics may flourish.”

Shisla Macleod – a graduate policy analyst in trade at the New Zealand Customs Service in Wellington, Shisla (22) went to Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland. She attended the University of Auckland, graduating with a BCom in economics and international business and now lives in Kelburn, Wellington. Her family moved to her mother’s home country of Brazil when she was a baby, returning to Aotearoa 12 years later.  Sustainability and equitable opportunities are her particular interests and she says: “The opportunity to represent young people and have our voices heard by influential decision-makers is incredibly important, and APEC, as an incubator of ideas, is the perfect forum to discuss our ideas.”

AUT Pro-Vice Chancellor International Guy Littlefair says the event provides a unique opportunity for young people around the APEC region to explore the big issues of our time. “As New Zealand’s top-ranked university for international outlook, AUT is delighted to be hosting this event and enabling local students to come together and engage with their international peers.”

APEC Voices NZ Chair David Ward says: “The Voices of the Future conference has been an established part of APEC since 1998 and since then more than 100 young New Zealanders have taken part in the event. We look forward to hearing what the Declaration of this year’s cohort will be.”