Last Updated on March 30, 2022
In the wake of a global pandemic, increasingly tense political conflict, global warming and the rise in the cost of living, passionate and dedicated philanthropists is exactly what the world needs to ensure equitable opportunities for all.
For over 15 years, Vancouver’s Katrina Sriranpong has been an activist on issues regarding refugee protection, anti-human trafficking, assisting marginalized children as well as conservation of the environment and the promotion of animal welfare. After an extensive educational career, working with new immigrants and assisting refugees fleeing from persecution, Katrina Sriranpong is now dedicated to consistently helping nonprofit organizations through donations and other methods to achieve positive change.
In this Q&A, InspirationFeed asks Katrina what makes her tick and how she continues to stay motivated in such difficult times.
Can you explain what issues you are most passionate about and why?
I have a deep interest in supporting organizations that provide assistance to refugees from war-torn countries or conflict regions. And, since my family is from Thailand, I have a significant interest in supporting organizations that aim to raise awareness on the issue of human trafficking, especially of children for sexual exploitation. The issues are actually closely related and impact each other.
Whenever there’s instability or a massive displacement of people due to war or conflict, this often leads to increased exploitation of vulnerable people, especially children. Unfortunately, human traffickers take advantage of this opportunity where children may be unsupervised or traveling on their own.
The recent invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is a perfect example of this. That’s why the work of organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) are so essential because they are quick to set up on the ground at the border to support children at high risk for exploitation.
O.U.R. is also raising funds to build a safe place for at-risk orphans and survivors of exploitation in Romania. The aftercare group in Romania currently provides housing for survivors of exploitation and trafficking and will be taking in more at-risk children from an orphanage in Ukraine. O.U.R. plans to renovate the facility to enable this aftercare group to continue to take in at-risk children and provide long-term care.
How do you think the pandemic has changed the way people support nonprofits?
Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected people’s ability to donate and this has resulted in financial challenges for many non-profit organizations. It’s not surprising when people lose their jobs and businesses suffer that their giving power is negatively affected.
I think when people donate to a charity, they want to see their funds used on a specific project or have their funds go directly to the victims or the mission. However, people fail to understand that non-profit organizations need funds to cover administrative costs and establish a contingency fund so their programs can go on uninterrupted.
Donating towards administrative funding or, at least, allowing the organization to use the funds as they deem appropriate is crucial to a nonprofit organization’s survival during an economic recession.
How do you stay motivated toward achieving your goals?
I think it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed when we constantly hear about the atrocities around the world. It becomes almost paralyzing because you feel helpless and don’t know where or how to even begin to help. In 2021, the world was focused on Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country.
We were worried about the safety of human rights activists and people who supported the fight against the Taliban over the years. The rights of women and children were also of significant concern. Girls were no longer allowed to attend school, which is a violation of their right to an education. And, then in 2022, the world witnessed the genocide of innocent Ukrainians by an authoritarian regime.
I think it’s daunting to anyone at first and you may think that one person can’t possibly change the world, but you have to remember that you’re not just one person, you’re part of a wider community of people who want to effect change and make the world a better place. You just have to find your “people” (or organization) that are in line with your values to support.
Is there anything future philanthropists should keep in mind?
I think it’s important to keep in mind that the media acts as a flashlight in a very dark room. It shines a small narrow light on certain issues in the world, but leaves the rest of the room dark and unseen. People tend to forget about other significant issues going on in the world when the media focuses on a particular country.
Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child Canada, once stated that, “people are good at reacting to emergency situations. But, there’s a tendency to move onto the ‘next big crisis’ when issues are less immediate.” As a volunteer, activist or philanthropist, it’s important to keep this in mind when explaining your cause to people.
I also want to emphasize to people that everyone can be a philanthropist, whether it be by donating your time, money, knowledge or valuable skills. I think the term “philanthropist” has been inappropriately used to only describe people who donate a generous amount to charity. But, the actual definition of a philanthropist is a person who donates time, money, experience, skills or talent to help create a better world.
So, everyone has the power to help and effect change and that can be as simple as creating a club in your school to raise awareness about a specific local or global issue that is of concern to you.
As a parent, what do you think is the best way to motivate children towards philanthropy?
Promoting the development of empathy and deep compassion for others. I think nurturing a social conscience in the next generation is crucial to change. As a mother of two, raising children who care and contribute are extremely important to me. This is the reason why traveling is so meaningful for me.
It’s an opportunity to expose my children to other countries and people who are less fortunate and find ways for my children to identify with other cultures. I believe we are all connected in some way. Once your children find that similarity, teach your children to dedicate their time to making the world a more equitable place so that all children can have fair opportunities in life to thrive.
Also, be positive role models for your children by volunteering and involve your children in volunteering with the community. Teach your children to be aware of global issues. Encourage their efforts, not only results because the worst thing you can do is nothing. Donate to people who you know can do nothing for you so your children learn not to expect anything in return.
Adopt a pet! There’s an abundance of research that indicates that having a pet increases empathy scores. However, this isn’t surprising. As a child, I had exposure to so many different animals which I think contributed to my love of animals. Growing up in Vancouver, BC, I had a rabbit, a guinea pig, hamsters, fishes, and dogs. While in Thailand as a child, I rode on water buffalos, played with elephants and chased pigs on my uncle’s rice farm.
My family recently adopted a homeless street dog from Thailand through an organization called Soi Dog Foundation. There are so many dogs that have been abandoned or neglected and need a safe home. Giving your children the gift of a pet provides so many benefits. I believe falling in love with an animal (dog or any other pet) opens the door to having empathy and compassion for all animals. I also think spending time in nature with your children to improve their ecological understanding would develop a desire in them to preserve the environment for all animals.