The Pearl of the Orient Seas meets the Green City in the Sun
- 11 Posts
- Age 24
UNICEF recently gave a group of young people from different parts of the world an opportunity to intern for 3 months on their Voices of Youth website which offers “inspiring, original insight and opinion from across the globe – from young people, for young people”. The Voices of Youth Blogging Internship has been the perfect platform for us to learn more about several different issues regarding the climate and the environment from all corners of the world! We have created connections as we unleash and pour out our creativity through the same passion we share- our love for writing and our communities. Everyone has that defining moment- the turning point that fuels us to pursue our advocacies. Thus, we, Joanna and Caroline current interns at Voices of Youth, would like to share our personal stories of love, purpose, and transformations.
Caroline seeks to delve deeper into Joanna’s life as a young person in the Philippines in the below excerpt:
1. What was your life like growing up in Tacloban and how did it influence and shape you into the amazing woman you are today?
Growing up in Tacloban, meant a childhood filled with fun memories going to the beach, picnicking, taking road trips and camping. And as I reached young adulthood, my friends and I did the same- all of us just loved being with nature. A lot of people, especially foreigners who visit my city, say they envy us because we get to breathe fresh air and live near beautiful sceneries of mountains, oceans, and night skies beaming with stars. My parents have influenced me with my love for nature. They showed me the value of experiences and moments- that these are much more important than material things. My life in Tacloban was not always easy, but through all the emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, Mother Nature was always there as my witness. This realization greatly influences all my decisions- especially my advocacies. I also want my children and the rest of the future generations to experience the infinite magnificence of this planet, like I have. I want them to value nature’s gift so they may continue to enjoy it even more. Growing up and living in Tacloban, made me cherish Mother Nature, she has given me so much all these years, and it is about time that I give back something of what has been given to me in ways I know.
2. Writing is or has become a major creativity outlet for you and other interns on Voices of Youth. In what ways has it impacted you as a millennial?
“Her pen became her sword and her smile became her armor…” is an excerpt of a poem I wrote way back. It was about how my relationship with writing evolved and how it became my weapon as I fought my own demons. Like other interns, writing is my safe space to express my thoughts and feelings without the fear of being judged. It’s my way to cope with life’s problems and it made me know more about myself. When I write, I become vulnerable as I’m able to strip myself naked and pour out my individual truths. Through this, I’m able to pick up the pieces, and somehow, make sense of everything I’m going through.
As a millennial, I believe our generation is one that constantly tries to break barriers. We are now more involved in all aspects of our society, more vocal with our opinions and arguments. We ask more questions and speak up because we know that we and the future generations deserve more than what we have now. More than writing being a conduit of healing, it also empowers me to the core as I use it to contribute change to my community, to break barriers, and to bridge differences.
3. How has climate change affected you either directly or indirectly and how has it influenced you to become a climate change advocate?
I’ve always thought that when I talk about my advocacy for the climate, it wholly describes my life story. I never thought that my life would turn out this way. Years ago, I was only thinking for myself and what I wanted. My ambitions were only limited to what I could possibly achieve- to build my own business- that’s it. It was only focused on me and my family’s security, but when Typhoon Haiyan hit my country, I lost my job, my home, and my properties. I lost my parents, eldest brother, sister-in-law and nephew. I lost everything and my life’s everything.
Life without the people you draw strength from is difficult and devastating. But now I could say that maybe, I really needed that change. If it weren’t for Haiyan, I would’ve never realized how important it is for everyone to dream for something bigger than ourselves. We should always remember that we are all connected. I am an advocate for the climate because I do not want other people to experience what we here in Tacloban, have gone through. Let us not wait for another tragedy to happen before we take action because lives and livelihoods are at stake.
4. In a few words, tell me how you plan to create more awareness in your community in matters of climate change and the environment.
I want to continue sharing my stories and experiences, to let my community know that there are so many people all over the world fighting for us and the climate because they believe that we deserve more. I want them to feel empowered so that they too will fight for our right to a healthy environment. And that no matter where you come from, it is important to be involved in working for a better future.
5. So far what lessons or important points have you learnt from your internship with VOY?
Through the wonderfully crafted blog posts I’ve read, I felt like I have already travelled the world and caught a glimpse of the realities humanity is currently facing. It empowers me to know that there are plenty of young people with whom I share the same passion. Of course, I’ve also learned from the speaker sessions conducted by different people who are experts in their field. I know that the lessons I’ve learned will be beneficial for me as I continue on with my advocacy.
Joanna seeks to find out Caroline’s life as a millennial in Kenya in the below excerpt:
1. What is it about Nairobi that makes it different from other places in the world?
Apart from being the only city with a national park in it in the entire world (it’s pretty hard not to brag about having an entire national park in your backyard- I kid ), It really is a magical city with so much to see, do and hear! From the various eateries (food is very important), entertainment spots, city parks, forests, museums, art galleries and, of course, the very beautiful people from different tribes and countries. It’s quite literally a melting pot for various ethnicities and I think the people make Nairobi the vibrant city that it is. We have great weather all year round and there are so many hidden getaway spots that make Nairobi to me a little piece of heaven on earth (I might be biased as I was born and grew up here, but it’s all true). Nairobi is not perfect and it does have its faults but which city doesn’t? Please come and visit Nairobi; I should add a little warning: you might not want to leave.
2. I learned that aside from being a student you are a freelance travel guide too, which place in Nairobi are you most proud of and why?
I’m in love with Nairobi in its entirety, but if I had to choose, I’d say that I’m proud of Uhuru Park which is a park located in the heart of the city center. Originally it was a city park for the people, but in the nineties the Kenyan government wanted to use it to build the largest skyscraper in Nairobi. Wangari Maathai, the first African and Kenyan woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, led the movement that stood up against the government to protest the destruction of the park. She, alongside other environmental conservationists, were beaten and jailed for their resistance. Despite this, they eventually won and the park remained being the city park. I can’t imagine a tall glass/stone building standing where the park is today. This story is one of resilience and bravery. That’s why I love Uhuru Park; it has a story behind it: one of blood and sweat to save it.
3. What influenced you to become passionate in advocating for a sustainable and eco-conscious environment?
Growing up I was surrounded by waste being thrown carelessly on the streets, flooding caused by blocked drainages and dirty rivers which changed to the color black due to the mixing of sewage. It reached the point where I asked myself and others the simple question- why isn’t the government or anyone doing anything about it? Something jolted in me; I told myself that I can do something about it. I didn’t have a lot of resources to change the environment I was in, but I realized that I didn’t require so much. Just an iron will, a heart to change my destructive ways that were harming the environment and talking about why we need to care more about the environment.
4. How have your thoughts or actions towards the environment differed as you grow?
Through learning about the various ways my habits, like leaving lights on when leaving a room to purchasing plastic bags to store my shopping, I realized my seemingly small and harmless habits were in fact very destructive to the environment and affected it in more ways than I’d ever thought. Not only have I learnt to be more environmentally conscious as a human being, I have learnt that changing my habits are slowly but surely the right path when it comes to combating climate change and its harmful effects.
5. What do you think is the biggest challenge for millennials in today's world? And how should millennials be involved in the solution to these challenges?
I think different challenges affect different millennials in different parts of the world. This is because we have all grown up in different circumstances, environments, cultures, values and backgrounds. I would highlight one challenge across the board that inevitably affects us all is climate change. Climate change affects us in different ways, be it in the effects such as rising temperatures, droughts, floods, typhoons and hurricanes. Mother Nature is crying, lashing out in pain and anger. It needs the children of the earth to stand up and save it. Millennials have an obligation to save the earth as they are the future generation and they are going to give birth to the next generation. If anyone is going to save the earth, it’s the millennials.
We are two different human beings in two different countries, hundreds of miles apart from each other. In spite of all the differences that may seem quite apparent, we have come together in unison to follow our dreams of writing and becoming climate change advocates. The world is indeed a global village and with the proliferation of the internet and transportation becoming faster and easier to access, communication has become a walk in the park. Now as a young person, we all have our defining moments. We are just one example of many millennials standing up for their dreams and their environments. What is your defining moment?