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Birgit has worked in community development and alongside ethnic communities in Aotearoa New Zealand ever since she migrated to New Zealand twenty years ago.

She has worked together with many community organisations and government departments in that time.


Birgit was on the Ministry for Ethnic Communities’ Ethnic Communities Development Fund panel between 2018 and 2021. She was also on the Executive Board of English Language Partners New Zealand (ELPNZ) for two years.

She worked at ELPNZ for 15 years, first as manager of the North Shore centre in Auckland and then as Operations Manager at National Office in Wellington before she took on the role as National Programs Manager NZ at HOST Aotearoa New Zealand in 2021.

Birgit is originally from Germany and lived in Zimbabwe before moving to New Zealand. She holds a Masters degree in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology from Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany, and was Research Associate at the University of Waikato in Hamilton.

She is also known for her love of coffee.


Her passion? Strengths-based leadership, empowerment, collaboration, and of course, people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in this world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Birgit Grafarend-Watungwa
National Program Manager NZ

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Philippa Dixon
Employment Projects Manager


Philippa is driven to find employment solutions for migrants and former refugees and to supply them with opportunities for internships, work experience and full-time employment.

Her role includes developing and managing partnerships with NZ organisations to encourage diverse and more inclusive workplaces and helping to match the skills of people from diverse backgrounds to employers’ requirements.

She takes part in the design and implementation of employment events, workshops in collaboration with NGOs, educational institutes, government and business.

Philippa has a background in marketing, and relationship management across the not-for-profit, public, and commercial sectors.

An academic post-graduate marketing qualification from Victoria University has supplied her the skills to find and develop opportunities across a variety of different sectors.

In her spare time, you can find her on the yoga mat, riding a gorgeous pony, or walking with friends.

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Juan Isaza
Program Support Refugee Sponsorship

Juan arrived in New Zealand a year and a half ago at the end of 2020. Since arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand, he has had the opportunity to volunteer in the community where he developed a deeper understanding about the challenges faced by refugees. His goal is to become a point of support for the refugee community in search of a proper adaptation to their new life in New Zealand.

Juan is originally from Colombia and has also lived in Ecuador and Mexico. His work experience is mainly in the private sector and customer service.

He greatly admires the multiculturalism of Aotearoa New Zealand and believes that a better society can be created when we all seek to understand our differences and cooperate to help each other in times of difficulty.

Juan dedicates his free time to writing short stories about different topics. He loves studying and doing exercise. Also, he enjoys quality time with those he loves.

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Giselle Iradukunda
Community Sponsorship Coach


My name is Giselle Promise Iradukunda. I arrived in New Zealand in 2007 as a refugees from Malawi.


My sister and I were born in a refugee camp in Malawi in a town called Dowa at the time was the largest refugee camp in Africa hosting refugees and displaced people from all over the continent.


I completed a Bachelor of Arts with a major  in Public Policy and Political Science at Victoria University of Wellington in 2019.


I am currently pursuing a Masters in Applied Social Work at Massey University. Aotearoa, New Zealand has offered me a lot of opportunity.


I am fortunate to be working for a diverse organisation such as HOST International Aotearoa as a Community Sponsorship Coach.


I am passionate about social justice, policy, people and this role allows me to explore these areas.

Sarah Macdonald

Sarah Macdonald
Community Sponsorship Coach


Sarah is a community development professional with particular skills in the promotion of diversity, inclusion and belonging. She has worked and volunteered in the refugee resettlement and community development sector for over 15 years in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world. She is also one of the organisers of Ethno New Zealand, a marae-based programme bringing young musicians from many communities together to share and learn traditional music over 10 days each year.


Her previous roles have included training NZ Red Cross refugee resettlement volunteers and five years working at Refugees as Survivors New Zealand as the Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator, and part of the Training and Development team. In her time working in the refugee resettlement sector, Sarah has gained invaluable insight into the power of human connection, and what it takes to create the conditions for authentic intercultural connections. Sarah understands the complexity of the journey of those who are forced to flee their homelands and the issues third country resettlement brings.  


She is passionate about creating safe, informative, research-based learning experiences to explore how we can create more inclusive, diverse and ultimately healthy, strong communities. 


Sarah is a qualified Intercultural Competency and Communication Trainer and to complement that she also has degrees in International/Global Studies and Conflict Resolution as well as a Masters of Human Rights (hons).


Sarah is Pakeha, however was raised in South East Asia and has lived a lot of her life coming in and out of Aotearoa, however returning 10 years ago with her three bi-cultural girls and Spanish husband, she set about finding her and her whānau’s way into what it means to be Tangata Tiriti and the contemporary expression of Ti Tiriti o Waitangi. This journey continues to be one of personal and collective insight, and one I’m very passionate about.


Sarah is inspired by the whakatauākī:


He waka eke noa


A canoe which we are all in with no exception.


She is reminded to listen hard, find a shared vision and work to collaborate and connect with all people who call Aotearoa home.


Mitchell Pham

Mitchell Pham

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Mitchell is a former refugee and accomplished business leader in the New Zealand tech industry.


He is a philanthropist and a Founding Managing Director of Augen Software in Auckland, New Zealand.

David Keegan

David Keegan

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David is the founder and CEO of HOST International with expertise in refugee settlement and community development in Australia and abroad.


Mai Tamimi

Mai Tamimi

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Mai is a community development expert having worked with refugee and Māori communities in New Zealand.


She currently works in community development in local government in New Zealand.



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HOST International Aotearoa works closely with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment | Immigration New Zealand, other partners in the former refugee and migrant settlement sector and wider communities across Aotearoa and globally on the Community Refugee Sponsorship programme.

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