Two Seventh-day Adventists, Pelenise Alofa and Dr. Patrick Pikacha, have received international recognition for their significant environmental achievements in the South Pacific.
Ms Alofa, from Kiribati, received a Commonwealth Points of Light award from the UK Prime Minister’s office for her work in helping communities deal with climate change and raising awareness of the issue internationally.
“In 2008, I started advocating for the world to save Kiribati and the Pacific from the impacts of climate change,” she said. “I am not a scientist, but I live, see and feel the impacts of climate change. As Christians, we need to take care of our environment, our resources, and people. If the world is not sure about climate change, the most important thing is to help people live sustainable and happy lives.
Originally from Fiji, Alofa studied locally at Vatuvonu Adventist High School and Fulton College. She attended Pacific Adventist University (PAU) in Papua New Guinea and Avondale University in Australia. She has also taught at PAU and worked at the University of the South Pacific.
For more than 13 years, Alofa has led the Kiribati Climate Action Network as a volunteer. The network helps communities develop and build freshwater reservoirs and shelters and provides vocational training to better prepare people for potential migration in response to sea level rise.
“I was surprised to receive the Points of Light award,” she said. “It is a great honor for my organization, my family, my country and my church, and especially for all of the people who have taught me Christian values.”
The Points of Light Award recognizes outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a difference in their community. British High Commissioner to Kiribati George Edgar congratulated Alofa on his award, which he said recognizes “his work in raising awareness of the existential threat climate change poses to his country.”
“I thank God for coming to Kiribati,” said Alofa, who attends the Andrae Adventist Church. “Living here helping my people has given me the greatest satisfaction. Having grateful smiles is the best reward for anyone. I pray every day that God will shine his face on me so that I can bring peace and joy to everyone I meet.
Dr Patrick Pikacha, vertebrate ecologist and field biologist, received the National Leadership Award in Environmental Sustainability and Conservation by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).
Dr Pikacha is a lecturer in ecology at the PAU School of Science and Technology. Previously, he was Associate Lecturer in International Programs at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia.
“I have worked with community conservation organizations in the Solomon Islands for over 20 years,” said Dr Pikacha, who attends the English Church in Koiari Park.
“I have a passion for community resource management initiatives that help maintain ecosystems and services while meeting human needs. As you know, Melanesians have an innate connection to place and land. Yet in our landscapes and seascapes, we have seen unsustainable exploitation of our natural resources.
“This has been a source of concern for me and the local organization with which I am associated in the field – Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands. “
Dr Pikacha said he was touched by the recognition. “As Pacific Islanders who live on tiny islands, managing resources is everyone’s business. I represent only a fraction of the like-minded individuals and organizations, such as Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, who work tirelessly to ensure that our natural resources are managed sustainably in the Pacific Islands.
SPREP is a regional organization established by governments and governments in the Pacific, responsible for protecting and managing the environment and natural resources of the Pacific. Its head office is in Apia, Samoa.
This article originally appeared on the Adventist Record website