This was Bennett’s first visit to Aitutaki and she was delighted to accept the invitation on behalf of the New Zealand Government.
The village leader Marama Ioane acknowledged the generosity. “It is not the amount that counts but the generosity in the giving that matters most,” he said.
“You came as a visitor but today, you will always remain as a friend.”
In Bennett’s opening address, she said: “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata, (it is people, it is people, it is people), and the strength they bring to their respective communities.”
The village chairman Mikaera Tumu was pleased that he was able to attend the ceremony in person, given Bennett’s busy schedule.
This community project, funded through the New Zealand High Commission discretionary grant facility, couldn’t have come at a better time, said Tumu.
“In 2019, our kitchen did not meet public health requirements in and the community were remiss as to what to do because it restricted our ability to utilise the hall for wider community use.
“Unfortunately, we had to close it down over the Christmas period due to the health risks it posed and this had a huge impact especially for our visiting families and friends,” said Tumu.
The application for assistance, “was very positive and today, we now see the results of that assistance thanks to the generosity of the High Commission,” added Tumu.
“Our role is to support such initiatives and this was indeed an exciting time as they are always willing to provide assistance to communities where practical and I’m delighted this occasion was definitely one such initiative.”
Bennett received a small presentation from the mamas as a token of appreciation.
Once the kitchen was formally handed over and the blessing ceremony completed, everyone joined together for a beautiful, healthy island lunch.
Bennett was accompanied by her husband Neville and daughter Sophie. She also paid a courtesy call on the acting mayor and council, and visited a local primary school to look at education activities on the island.