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Birgit Grafarend-Watungwa

National Program Manager

Birgit has worked in leadership and management positions for the past 15+ years, particularly in community development and alongside ethnic communities in Aotearoa 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.

Birgit 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 Program Manager at HOST in 2021.

Birgit is originally from Germany and lived in Zimbabwe before moving to New Zealand. She holds a Master of Arts (MA) 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 also completed a degree in business studies, a one-year introduction to counselling course, and holds a current Mental Health First Aid Certificate. As the Child Protection Lead for HOST in Aotearoa New Zealand, Birgit also regularly upskills on matters of child safeguarding and protection. She is currently studying for the New Zealand Certificate in Te Reo Māori (Papa Reo) with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

In 2021, Birgit was the recipient of a Sector Award for her dedication and contribution towards positive resettlement for ethnic communities, presented in Auckland at the Tūmanako Summit by the Auckland Resettlement Sector Steering Group.

In her spare time, she volunteers as a job mentor for refugee and migrant background job seekers. 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


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