by LORRAINE B. LAZARO and MARIA CECILIA O. PAGDANGANAN
IF HAVING an unconventional and forward-looking mindset is indeed a powerful tool that can leave an impact on the world, then Kiana Porras is undoubtedly redefining what it means to be an environmental advocate.
Kiana’s fervid outlook in life has always been to help the environment. She dedicates her time and service for the earth through volunteering for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines. Despite having to juggle many responsibilities, she believes that every minute of volunteering she offers is her way of paying it forward.
“It’s something I really want to do. It’s something that I think may purpose siya at the end of the day. It’s more than just having an impact sa personal life mo,” she says. “It’s also […] knowing na whenever you have a chance to talk to people, baka ‘yung person na kinakausap mo, ‘yun din ang maging springboard niya na mag-influence ng other people.”
The Asian studies alumna is also currently the chairperson of the National Youth Commission of WWF and is raising the youth’s awareness of environmental issues through forums and other similar activities.
As a full-time paralegal and a part-time volunteer, the workload may be overwhelming; for Kiana, however, the growth she encounters in every experience is worth it.
Education as key
Kiana’s high school teachers opened her eyes to how life-threatening humans’ actions are to animals. This deeply affected her and led her to start advocating for the environment as young as she was.
Kiana also felt compelled to open the eyes of other people to the dire state of the environment. It was never easy since most people choose to turn a blind eye.
“It’s more of convincing other people to change their lifestyle […] How can you convince people to shift from one paradigm to another?” she says.
Despite having people contradict her ideas, Kiana remains steadfast in her convictions. She is a firm believer that through volunteer work, she can show the consequences of neglecting the environment. This way, she can hopefully inspire others to change their lifestyles.
“Ang approach namin do’n is you educate them. You entertain their questions, don’t neglect them. Be [as] inclusive as possible,” she advises.
The humanitarian believes that in order to effectively motivate others to live a more sustainable lifestyle, the change must first begin with oneself. This is why she stresses the importance of “walking the talk.”
Kiana shares that she avoids single-use plastics and impulsive shopping in order to reduce waste. Whenever she eats outside, she brings her reusable utensils. This year, she even decided to lessen her consumption of meat because of its high carbon footprint.
Beyond the lifestyle changes, she constantly joins different volunteer organizations that advocate for environmental conservation, something that was further enriched during her college years.
Being a part of community projects as a former member of the UST Volunteers for UNICEF was her game-changer. Kiana developed a better understanding of environmental issues through the conferences she attended and the firsthand experiences she gained.
Through these community development activities, she was also able to forge meaningful relationships with various people. These connections taught her the importance of working with a supportive community for a worthy cause.
“I just feel na dapat every person should have an interaction with a community to [have a] better grasp kung ano’ng nangyayari. I mean, the more you socialize, the more you learn,” she says.
An invitation to selfless devotion
Kiana’s active volunteerism and lifestyle changes are not easy tasks that simply anyone can do, but she is fueled by her strong belief system to rise from the rubble and continue the fight.
“One learning na laging ko natandaan na sinasabi ng parents ko ever since no’ng bata ako is matuto ka maging tao. You have to learn how to sympathize and empathize,” she shares. “Treat everyone as your equal. No one is below you or behind you.”
What was once merely a part-time job transformed into a lifelong commitment to altruism, into an advocacy that made her realize how impactful one person’s actions are.
“What I’m doing has helped me become who I am right now. ‘Yung every struggle, experience, and process, feeling ko na-de-develop naman ang person that I want to become. And if you really want to do volunteer work, just be dedicated to it. ‘Yun ngang lagi kong sinasabi is hindi ka nag-vo-volunteer work para sa sarili mo; you do it for others,” she shares. F
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Vol. 54, Issue No. 4 of the Flame. View the entire issue through this link.