Miss World New Zealand Cody Yerkovich, 18, writes of the gratitude she feels toward the people of Northland who helped in her transformation from student to national beauty queen 
I have always been extremely proud to come from Waiharara and the very beautiful Far North.
When I was fortunate enough to win Miss World New Zealand, it was an amazing moment for me, an opportunity to be a positive role model for the younger generation and other young women in New Zealand.
On my very first day on the job as Miss New Zealand I received some very wise advice which has stuck with me to this day: "It's not real, you need to understand that and really trust who you are as a person, whatever happens in the media, whatever people say, it's not real.
"Miss World New Zealand is only a title, it's not who you are, you are a girl from Northland.
"From here on in you need to realise who loves you and love them back. All that matters is you know who you are, what the rest of the world may say or think or do to bring you down doesn't matter."
Not the words I was expecting on my first day, I must admit - but they were definitely words to keep me going through all of the ups and downs to come and, hopefully, until my reign ends in April next year.
I have had the great privilege of helping raise funds for the Children's Variety Charity to enable families of children with type 1 diabetes to purchase the latest portable insulin pumps, making life a little easier for them.
I have been lucky enough to travel to South Africa to the FIFA World Cup as an ambassador for our All Whites, mixing with people I never imagined I would ever meet.
I also had the most unbelievable experience of travelling to East Timor courtesy of ChildFund. I was moved by the welcome I received arriving in that country and at schools I visited, where we gave out soccer balls to the children.
I met the child my grandmother and I sponsor in the small village of Suai near the capital of Dilly.
I also met the president, Jose Ramos-Horta.
A very special severely disabled young boy with the voice of an angel welcomed me with Pokarekare Ana, a moment which will stay close to my heart forever.
Staying with the New Zealand ambassador and spending a lot of time with the New Zealand Army in East Timor, I was blown away by the work they had been doing in conjunction with ChildFund and the difference they were making in this nearby country.
Our troops were not only peace-keeping, but building orphanages in their spare time, playgrounds for children and slowly putting the country back together pieced by piece.
Everywhere I went there were big Kiwi statues. We are hugely respected and loved in Timor. I really wish the rest of New Zealand could see the difference they are making the way I have.
One thing that astounds me is how the children in less fortunate countries, having nothing at all compared to most, have the biggest smiles of us all.
Being in China for the Miss World pageant was amazing, from classy ball gown events to climbing the Great Wall, riding horses in Mongolia, visiting the World Expo in Shanghai and making friends from all around the world.
But best of all was being able to represent New Zealand and the very Far North.
I would not have been able to do all of this without the fantastic support from the people of the Far North, people I know, people I don't know, friends and family all donating their time and money.
It is impossible to individually thank everyone, so to every single person, group, club, society, business - a huge THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to every one of you for your support, encouragement and generous help with fundraisers and donations. You all know who you are and I will be forever thankful to you all. And a special thanks to the Far North District Council for their generosity in sponsoring me with one of their vehicles for the next three months.