Meeting the Alumni

I might be biased, but I reckon that our AYLI Delegates are a pretty incredible bunch. While I've never been on a delegation before, I've trained, met, or worked with at least half the Institute's delegates over the last four years. And it's been incredible to watch how they grow through their experiences, and to see the impact their international AYLI experience had on their lives - and the impact they're making because of it. This year, it's been a huge privilege to not only be leading a delegation of nine incredible young folks, but to also be meeting up with five of the Institute's alumni who're here in Morocco. 

So, here are five case studies in how the Institute can be a trajectory-changing, life-affirming experience - and how young Kiwis can do really, really epic stuff.

Ben Abraham 

Ben Abraham

Ben Abraham is a PhD Student in Public Policy at the University of Oxford. He's also completed his Rhodes Scholarship, and previously volunteered extensively with P3 Foundation. He was on AYLI's delegation to ADP2.11 in October 2015.

Here's what Ben has to say about how his ADP experience has helped to shape his further studies (and so brought him back to the climate talks):

It was my first direct exposure to the UNFCCC process and a real formative experience for me. Here at COP22 I’ve been pursuing my research on non-state actors in climate change governance and helping facilitate dialogues on the future of the global climate action agenda. The connections I first made during my time with AYLI are ones that I drawn upon daily as part of this work.

Natalie Jones


Natalie Jones is just starting her PhD at the University of Cambridge. A former Judges' Clerk and New Zealand qualified lawyer, she's doing research in and around the Green Zone at COP this year, but has been to COP twice before - first in Warsaw in 2013 with the Institute, and then in Lima in 2014 with the New Zealand Youth Delegation. 

I'm here with the Climate Law and Governance Initiative, and doing preliminary research for my PhD. I've recently started my PhD at the University of Cambridge, in the law faculty.

Unsurprisingly, then, Natalie speaks pretty highly of her experience with AYLI:

Coming to COP19 with AYLI in 2013 was a great introduction to the UNFCCC process, and has led to more opportunities than I would have thought possible.

Dewy Sacayan


Dewy is a FIlipino-Kiwi law and politics student at the University of Auckland. She's been heavily involved in the UN Youth in the past, and traveled to the Philippines to do relief work after 2013's Typhoon Haiyan. Her first COP experience was with the Institute in Lima in 2014. Now, she's back after two years:

What I'm doing here: I'm here representing the EarthSavers Movement, a Philippine NGO which focuses on culture, arts and heritage. Our main message at COP is for the loss of culture in climate vulnerable countries to be acknowledged and included in the negotiations. This unfortunate phenomenon is only going to be more prevalent with our Pacific neighbours losing their land.

How coming to AYLI helped:

I went with AYLI in COP20 where I was introduced and exposed to the climate negotiations. AYLI's flexibility and its focus on leadership development put me in a good position to choose what I wanted to do and get out of COP. I was able to network, be involved in working groups within the youth constituency, organise and take part in actions, write speeches and deliver interventions during plenaries. Overall, AYLI gave me the exposure that I needed to start the ball rolling with my climate change journey. 

Lottie Boardman


Lottie is a solicitor at Buddle Findlay, who has recently completed her Masters in Law at Victoria University. She's back at the climate talks with the New Zealand Youth Delegation.

Attending COP21 in Paris with AYLI was a life-changing experience - a cliche I know, but an appropriate one in this case!  I was able to listen firsthand to the experiences of leaders taking action on climate change and to people who cultures have already been irreversibly affected by climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels. It made me much more aware of my privilege on a global scale and brought home to me the urgency of climate change action and climate justice. While at COP, I also made new friends that helped me deal with the complexity of COP, climate change. and the world in general! Being at COP helped me to understand the relationship between international and domestic climate action. This understanding spurred me on to go with NZYD to COP22 in Marrakech and hold our government to account for its actions or inactions on climate change. Global action on climate change will only occur when all countries, including New Zealand, takes action to reduce their domestic emissions. 

India Logan-Riley


India was part of the Institute's delegation to COP21 in 2015.  Originally from the Hawke's Bay, she moved to Auckland to study Anthropology and took on the campus convenor role at the University of Auckland for Generation Zero, before moving to Wellington in 2016 to take up an internship with WWF.

Her whakapapa is to Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, and since Paris she has become heavily involved in indigenous climate work. Here's how:

When I came with AYLI last year I had planned on connecting with what the indigenous constituency was doing. Little did I know that this would result in me being here a year later as a part of the Pacific team with the Indigenous Peoples Organisations - supporting our youth in the YOUNGO space, helping organise the indigenous bloc in the climate march, gathering website content, representing our region in press conferences and heaps more! It took coming to the other side of the world to meet those from Aotearoa who are involved in climate justice and indigenous sovereignty. This sounds ridiculous but I wouldn’t have had it otherwise. Working with these people in this space gave me the understanding and relationships to make this my life’s work.

We've got another eight new incredible delegates at COP22 this year, and I'm excited to see how they take their fellowships forward when they get home. 

All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute. Images by David Tong, with the exception of that of Dewy, which she provided.