Charity mission for former Bond girl

By Grant Harding


She's been a Bond girl, and a body double for Angelina Jolie.

But these days Philippines-born actress Rachel Grant is becoming as well known for the charity work she does to benefit her homeland.

During a whirlwind tour of the North Island to promote an "inspirational" diary she has co-authored, the 35-year-old detoured to Napier on Saturday specifically to talk to Hawke's Bay Today.

Ms Grant said she had stumbled into charity work almost by accident.

Having lived most of her life in England, she volunteered for a slum rebuild while on a trip home - "picking up bricks and painting walls" - and found herself inundated with requests to use her status as a Hollywood actress to help.

That was three years ago. While she has endured criticism from many sources, including family, Ms Grant has continued on because "I see there's a difference being made".

"I'm still learning. But something's working."

It was, however, a two-way street.

The poor in the Philippines had shown her humanity not on display in the more glamorous climes of New York and London, where she has spent much time, she said.

"They have so much more in terms of faith and attitude," Ms Grant said.

"That, I think, is very important. Maybe that's what I'm getting from them.

"These people have nothing, but look at the heart and soul. Their love for music. They sing. They dance. They're talented.

"When you sit down at a table there's so much food and they'll give you some to take home."

She is now regarded as one of the most influential Filipinos contributing around the world as evidenced by her recent invitation from Hilary Clinton to the White House to meet the Philippine President Benigno S Aquino.

But it was her ability as a writer which attracted Wellington publisher Wheldon Curzon-Hobson.

Following an e-book on the "amazing transformation of slums in the Phillipines" which was downloaded in more than 100 countries, he decided to share the stories of New Zealanders working to improve the Asia-Pacific Region.

The aim of the diary, Making a Difference, for which Ms Grant has contributed 12 chapters based on her charitable work and experiences around philanthropy in the Philippines, is to "inspire New Zealanders to get involved themselves", Mr Curzon-Hobson said.

"Once you do something little, then you can do a little bit more. And as Rachel's found over the last couple of years by the time you've done it for a while you've done quite something."

While it was Ms Grant's first time in New Zealand, she has strong links to the country having been cast in her first TV show by former Auckland media personality-made-good-overseas Mark Staufer, and in the 2002 Bond movie, Die Another Day, by acclaimed director Lee Tamahori.

With exotic looks courtesy of her English father and Filipino mother, in the latter she played an Asian agent acting as a masseuse sent to gain information from Bond (Pierce Brosnan). Agent 007 overcomes and disarms her by taking a pistol from a leg holster. The scene didn't use her skills as a martial artist, but she admits it has opened many doors.

While in Hawke's Bay she enjoyed lunch at "the stunningly rustic" Crab Farm Winery at Bay View.

During her tour she's become an unabashed fan of New Zealand white wine, particularly sauvignon blanc.

"I think it might be the best white wine in the world," she said.

Ms Grant was to conclude her eight-day visit today.

Making a Difference can be ordered from ystories.org for $24.95. Sales are raising money for the Wellington Free Ambulance and her family charity in the Philippines.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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