Luana Moreno ’17 practices what she calls little “acts of self-care” every day.
It’s how the Hawaii Domestic Violence Action Center advocate ensures the difficult emotional and physical trauma she helps other people process doesn’t begin to impact her own mental health.
It’s also how she makes certain she can continue to be there for them, week in and week out.
When things get a little too heavy, she takes a walk. Treats herself to a coffee. Picks up her coloring pencils. Sometimes, all she needs is to go outside, take in a deep breath and enjoy the sunshine.
Moreno, who is originally from San Diego, California, knew at an early age that she wanted to find a career that would allow her to help others—like she and her mother once needed help.
“I was raised by my mom, who showed me that there are ways to leave and survive abusive relationships,” Moreno said. “My work goes hand-in-hand with my journey because it has allowed me to learn and heal as well as help other survivors learn and start their own healing journey.”
When she was in high school, Moreno stumbled across Chaminade as she was looking online for potential universities to attend. She immediately felt a connection with the school—not least of which because of her name. “My great-grandparents’ best friends were from Hawaii and that’s how I got my name, Luana,” she said. “My great-grandmother was never able to come here and when she passed away I wanted to accomplish her dream and give more to the special place that provided me my name.”
Moreno jumped at the chance to play softball for Chaminade.
And she was delighted that she could pursue the subjects she was interested in at the University.
She combined Religious Studies with Psychology because she wanted to learn more about the impacts of trauma on people’s lives and unpack how belief systems can help people through difficult experiences.
“Having a religious upbringing, I was taught to see trials as a piece of a bigger picture, where you learn lessons and come out of it better and stronger,” she said.
“I wanted to know more about why and what people believe and how it can help throughout life.”
Moreno added that her Religious Studies degree gave her a broader perspective on the world, too. “The inclusive knowledge of religion, spirituality and psychology allowed me to approach people in crisis in a kinder and more effective way,” she said. “It made me more accepting and open to people.”
It was actually through the pageant world that Moreno found her role in domestic violence.
She was part of the Miss Latina Hawaii Scholarship Organization and learned about the Domestic Violence Action Center from a friend she was coaching high school softball with.
As part of Miss Latina Hawaii, she was challenged to think about her social impact.
And so she started to volunteer with the action center. In short order, she was offered a full-time position with the nonprofit as a campus survivor advocate.
Her advice to others seeking careers in advocacy is simple: “Self-care! Self-care! Self-care!”
That’s an especially important lesson, she adds, amid the pandemic—which has left many more members of the community in need of social services. “Be mindful of how heavy the work can feel and find an outlet that helps release the emotions that can be held giving to others,” she said.
“You can’t help other people become better if you are not helping yourself.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call the Hawaii Domestic Violence Action Center helpline at (800) 690-6200 or text (605) 956-5680.