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, has been honoured with a Commonwealth Points of Light award by the UK Prime Minister’s office for her work helping communities respond to climate change and raising awareness of the issue at an international level.
“In 2008 I started advocating to the world to save Kiribati and the Pacific from the impacts of climate change,” she said. “I am not a scientist, but I do live, see and feel the impacts of climate change.
“As Christians we need to care for our environment, resources and the people. If the world is not sure about climate change, what’s more important is to help people live a sustainable and happy life.”
Originally from Fiji, Ms 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 also taught at PAU and has worked at the University of the South Pacific.
For more than 13 years she has run the Kiribati Climate Action Network as a volunteer. The network helps communities develop and build freshwater tanks and shelters, and provides vocational training to better prepare people for potential migration in response to rising sea levels.
“I was surprised to receive the Points of Light award,” she said. “It is a great honour to my organisation, family, country and to my church and especially to all the people who have taught me Christian values.”
The Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers—people who are making a change in their communities.
British High Commissioner to Kiribati, George Edgar, congratulated Ms Alofa on her award, which he said recognises “her work to raise awareness of the existential threat that climate change poses to her country”.
“I thank God I came to Kiribati,” said Ms Alofa, who attends Anrae 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 shines His face on me so that I can bring peace and joy to anyone I meet.”
Vertebrate ecologist and field biologist Dr Patrick Pikacha has been honoured with the National Leadership in Environmental Sustainability and Conservation Award by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Dr Pikacha is a senior lecturer in ecology in the School of Science and Technology at PAU. Prior to that he was associate lecturer in International Programs with the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia.
“I’ve been working with community conservation organisations in Solomon Islands for more than 20 years,” said Dr Pikacha, who attends Koiari Park English Church.
“I have a passion for community resource management initiatives that help maintain ecosystems and services, whilst meeting human needs. As you know, Melanesians have an innate connection to place and land. Yet within our land and seascapes we have seen unsustainable exploitation of our natural resources.
“This has been a cause of concern for me, and the local organisation I am associated with on the ground—Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands.”
Dr Pikacha said he is humbled by the recognition. “As Pacific islanders who live on tiny islands, resource management is everyone’s business,” he said.
“I only represent a fraction of the individuals and like-minded organisations such as Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, who work tirelessly to ensure our natural resources are sustainably managed in the Pacific Islands.”
SPREP is a regional organisation established by the governments and administrations of the Pacific, charged with protecting and managing the environment and natural resources of the Pacific. Its head office is in Apia, Samoa.