Gawad Kalinga

Archive for December, 2009


by admin on Dec.30, 2009, under Volunteer Support

A Christmas Message from Tony Meloto

How do we keep bad things that are happening from robbing us of the joy of the season?
I must admit it gets harder with the years, especially when election is around the corner. As one approaching 60 and eager for peaceful change, I am upset like many with our politics of conflict where millions of Filipinos declare war on one another every three years, breaking up families, turning friends into adversaries, and making the weak suffer when the strong fight for power. Politics is brewing again as our nation is still recovering from the triple tragedies that hit us this year.
How do we turn the mood around?
Difficult as it is, I will start with myself this Christmas by seeing grace beyond every bad situation, by connecting with the good side of people and seeking the good of every person. I will consider myself out of grace if I indulge a mean gossip, bash my country or consider any Filipino an enemy. I will purge my system of disparaging un-Filipino sentiments and un-Christian behavior, seeing them as unbecoming and ungrateful.
A gift of solidarity with the poor is for me the most appropriate this season. Spreading goodwill in their communities, dining with them in their homes, opening our gates to their children – will affirm our kinship with them and gain favor from the Savior who treated the neglected as family and lavished them affection. As a predominantly Christian nation, we have to see the poor through the eyes of Jesus – not as beggar or slave -but as family.
If we have to give material gifts, let’s do so with a proud-to-be-Filipino spirit by giving practical and well crafted items made in the Philippines that help poor communities and protect the environment.
The season also calls for more of us to be torchbearers who will shine brightly like the star that lit the dark skies to proclaim the coming of the One who could calm storms and lighten the load of a suffering people.
How does one who dreams of a better life in this country stay on course when battered by strong winds, when kindred spirits die and friends fall on the wayside? We do not lack patriots but many movements in our country have a historical pattern of blowing hot and cold, of ending in frustration despite grand plans, big resources, great enthusiasm and the best intentions when they began.
Can passion for the nation burn brighter even when others give up? How can we keep our spirit from burning out when many find it saner and safer to succumb to apathy?
From what has been preached to us somehow we know that there is no burnout or giving up if our passion comes from the Source of eternal, unconditional and giving love, not from our raging desire to pursue our agenda that makes enemies out of those who oppose us or sacrifice the poor who cannot defend themselves; if we believe in a divine plan that works for those who can love the worst of people and see a silver lining in the worst of times.
Again, human as we are it is not easy but we must try and allow grace to work when we are failing or falling. Like what happened in our recent tragedies. In our grief and fear, there was a flow of grace.
First, Tita Cory died on August 1 and grieved a nation with the passing of a leader who loved serving our country more than the power to rule it. I drenched my grief in the heavy downpour during her funeral, regretting the loss of our icon of integrity. It was her message “Gawad Kalinga is People Power, People Power is Gawad Kalinga” that comforted an ordinary citizen like me longing for better times.
The grace that came with her passing was that the young who did not know her and EDSA 1 came to discover the lasting value of integrity in leadership. This is Tita Cory’s legacy to them; that power and wealth accumulated through corruption will not last and will bring only shame to those who do not walk their talk.
What we can offer to the country in her honor is the gift of personal Integrity. We need to share with others the gift of honest lives.
Second, Ondoy hit Metro Manila on September 26 with a fury greater than Hurricane Katrina, followed by Pepeng in Northern Luzon a week later.
Again grace was there beyond the vast devastation and loss of lives. Miraculously, there was no casualty or serious damage in over 400 GK communities in the typhoons’ path and the residents were quick to rebound and went to the task of helping their neighbors. The bigger blessing was that Filipinos woke up to the amazing discovery that we have the power to help ourselves. Many resisted the usual ‘who’s-to-blame’ habit, kept their begging bowls in the cupboard and instead, dug into their pockets and braved the murky waters to help. The hero in the Filipino came out of the casket to help others in greater need, oblivious to their personal safety and comfort.
Grace is when we bridge gaps, transcend rivalries, scrap cynicism, overcome apathy and become just one people -simply and amazingly Filipinos caring for one other. A desire for unity is a great gift to share.
Third, the Maguindanao massacre on November 23 revolted us and the world to the core of our soul by its sheer ferocity. We grieved the loss of lives of the innocents, especially of our pre-school teacher Pinky Balayman and other volunteers, and the brave media that came to record history with their blood.
Out of revulsion in something so inhuman, there is now the overwhelming clamor to dismantle political fiefdoms and end the rule of warlords. The political will to do this is pure grace.
It is imperative that we give one another the gift of peace. Love that brings peace is at the heart of Jesus’ message beyond a stormy and violent life, starting with the massacre of the innocents after his birth and his torture and painful death on the cross. The baby who was a squatter at birth and grew up as a carpenter’s son is revered by the wise, the rich and the powerful centuries after his death. He is the disruption to old wineskins, the shame to the wise… the calm after the storm.
Likewise, despite the storms that buffeted Gawad Kalinga this year, we experienced peace and grace upon grace because many remained steadfast in loving the least loved.
We are grateful to all those who believe in us, for making Gawad Kalinga bigger, stronger, more inclusive and universal in our mission to help end poverty in the Philippines and other developing countries.

1. To Fr. Ben Nebres, Gerry Ablaza, Ed Chua, Bebet Gozun, Manny Pangilinan, and Tony Olaes for joining the Gawad Kalinga Board.

2. To corporate partners who supported GK beyond CSR, to schools that fostered service learning in our villages and to public
officials who learned with us the value of service without corruption.

3. To those who set up GK Hope Initiative (GKHI) in Singapore as a hub to spread GK in Asia. This includes the Economic Development Board and also the schools, particularly Ngee Ann and NUS, for hosting the 2nd GK Global summit on June 25-27, 2010.

4. To the organizers and participants of the 1st GK Global Summit in Boston where GK2024 was successfully launched last June 12-14 and to Harvard and MIT for opening their doors to us.

5. To those who set up GK USA as a tax free institution and the GK1WORLD on-line campaign and all the volunteers and partners in the United States and Canada, Europe and the Middle East, Australia and new Zealand and other countries in Asia and the Pacific who are more passionate than ever in the GK vision of building a better world for the next generation.

6. To all patriots and lovers of the poor who joined the management and program teams of all GK provinces and Metro Manila cities, who practice faith and patriotism through volunteerism in all our GK sites, especially our thirty villages for our Muslim brothers and sisters – our special thanks for not abandoning those who are closest to the heart of Jesus.

7. To Luis Oquinena and all our young patriots for remaining firm and steadfast like Joshua. Luis will lead GK2024, our march to end poverty in the Philippines in 15 years.

8. To my brothers and sisters in Couples for Christ, the community of my deepest affection, for affirming our faith that God defends the poor and those who love them. A special thanks to our Project Directors and Caretaker teams for not deserting those who are being transformed by their love and loyalty.

9. To groups that treasure our Catholic faith like I do, for constantly reassuring us that Gawad Kalinga is not only one with our Church but is making Christians and Muslims one.

10. To UST for launching the Kalinga Tomasino campaign to build 400 GK villages as part of the 400 years celebration of their founding as the first Catholic university in Asia.

11. To those who helped in the Walang Iwanan Relief Operations and many others who have joined us in the efforts to relocate and rebuild the lives of typhoon victims.

12. Finally, to the poor for teaching us that love is the greatest gift from God.

If we love, everyday is a season of grace. May the joy of Christmas, the love of Jesus and the hope that we can build a peaceful and prosperous world together – starting in the Philippines – remain in our heart always.

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Pilipino Kaya Natin Ito Concert, A Success

by admin on Dec.20, 2009, under Community Building, Heroes Build / GK1MB, Volunteer Support

finaleOver 50 top Filipino OPM Artits and more than 25 of the Philippine’s coolest bands performed at the Pilipino Kaya Natin Ito Benefit Concert last December 5, 2009, Saturday, at the SM Mall of Asia.

With Gawad Kalinga as its beneficiary, the OPM-initiated concert raised funds for the victims of Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng. All proceeds will go to building structurally-sound, beautiful and empowered GK communities in areas out of harm’s way for the typhoon victims and will enable GK to open new sites to transfer vulnerable communities, protecting the poorest of the poor from danger.

Among the artists who performed were: Agot Isidro, Amber Davis, Billy Crawford, Denise Laurel, Dingdong Avanzado, DJ Myke, Gabriel Valenciano, Gary Valenciano, Geneva Cruz, Gian Magdangal, Jamie Rivera, Jaya, Jay-R, Jericho Rosales, Jessa Zaragoza, Jolina Magdangal, Karylle, KC Concepcion, Kuh Ledesma, Kyla, Nanette Inventor, Ogie Alcasid, Paolo Valenciano & Salamin, Martin Nievera, Rachel Alejandro, Ryan Cayabyab singers, Victoria. The Philippine’s coolest bands also performed, among them were: 6 Cyclemind, ChicoSci, Imago, Kenyo, Kjwan, Rico Blanco, Silent Sanctuary, Taken by, Cars, The Dawn, and True Faith.
The show was directed by Rowell Santiago and spearheaded by Ogie Alcasid. The show lasted for 7 hours.

GK’s Tony Meloto gratefully acknowledged the OPM artists for their contribution to building a better Philippines. “Dahil sa inyo wala ng magiging squatter sa ating bayan.” (There will no longer be squatters/slums in our country.) He thanked for their generosity and for sharing their talents to benefit the poorest of the poor and victims of disasters.

The concert proved that when people come together and give of themselves, only good things can happen. “Kaya Natin Ito, Sama-Sama Tayo. Ating kapwa’y tulungan, huwag nating pabayaan…At kahit na anong bagyo sa atin dumating, basta magkaisa tayo, kaya natin ito… Kaya ng bawat Pilipino.” – song composed by Ogie Alcasid and performed by OPM Artists United.

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Ending Poverty in Asia: The CSR Challenge

by admin on Dec.11, 2009, under Community Building

Written by Tony Melotoapectm

It is a break for an ordinary Asian from the Philippines like me doing community development work to speak at APEC.

In this gathering of powerful leaders pondering economic policies and business strategies to end the global recession, mine is probably a faint voice from the ground speaking for the economically handicapped who have no say yet suffer the most with decisions made by those who control wealth and power, in times when free market greed is unregulated and in places where corruption is institutionalized.

Though I speak for the less privileged, it will not be a message of despair.

On the contrary, while the powerful talk about recession and depression, mine will be about inspiration and hope; as others focus on addressing protectionism and self interest, I will honor selfless giving.

Coming from an underdeveloped country like the Philippines, I look at Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an instrument of hope, a stimulus for economic growth, a motivation for the idle to work. While it is viewed in more prosperous nations as philanthropy, corporate goodwill and community service, we see it as a vehicle to nation-building and a way to being a contributing member of the global community, not its added burden.

CSR as a development tool must not only be top down but also importantly and simultaneously as ground-up. Corporate planning and funding must trigger counterpart effort and service from those that are being helped. To be effective and sustainable, it must serve the interest of both the giver and the receiver, for the sake of the common good.

Most importantly, CSR must help Asians end poverty in Asia. It goes beyond profit and self-interest.

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said it clearly for me when pressed to talk about himself at the Q and A at the plenary session, “This is not about me; it’s about Singapore and Asia.”

At the start of my presentation I showed a video prepared by Singaporean, Malaysian and Vietnamese students of their immersion trip to Gawad Kalinga(GK) sites in the Philippines.

They stayed in villas donated by the Lien family of Singapore and conducted their sessions at the Productivity Center given by Singtel and their local partner Globe. As they encountered poverty face to face and saw the transformative impact of caring by ordinary volunteers, somehow they discovered the value of their own humanity and the need to include the less fortunate in their career plans and hope for a bright future.

Over a thousand students from ASEAN, mostly from Singaporean universities – Ngee Ann Poly, NUS, SMU and LKY School, have visited some of our 2,000 intentional communities, built on caring and sharing, in partnership with over 400 corporations that believe in restoring the dignity and productivity of a nation’s greatest wealth – its people.

This is a classic case of starting CSR early for the next generation of business and government leaders, of Asians caring for one another and making this a peaceful and prosperous corner of the world.

This is good news for the East as it is for the West.

It is to the best interest of multinational corporations from the West to support this aspiration as Asia is a growing market for their brands; bringing the poor out of poverty will enhance buying power and expand their market base. For social development to be sustainable it must match nobility with pragmatism; there must be benefit for both the benefactor and the beneficiary. It cannot be sustained purely on philanthropy and volunteerism; CSR must consciously be an investment in building human capacities and growing economies, without breaking up families, destroying nature and culture.

It cannot be nation-building unless it inspires love for country and hope for its people. This is our experience of CSR in Gawad Kalinga – sustainable partnership in societal transformation, turning slums into peaceful communities, idle lands into productive farms, ordinary citizens into heroes of the poor.

Shell, Philips, HSBC, Nestle and Unilever are European companies that saw value in our holistic development template by providing typhoon resistant homes for calamity victims, programs for education, health and nutrition for the children and livelihood for adults. This was not simply a matter of funding, but of sustained volunteerism usually led by their CEO and the top management team; not just a one time, big time season of service to the needy, but a consistent championing of communities that carry their corporate branding at the gates and in the grateful hearts of the residents.

Earlier before me US Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke, an Asian American himself, spoke about how Coke has taken on water neutrality as part of their global CSR. Coke’s partnership with us in the Philippines is community youth rehab of former scavengers in Smokey Mountain. Their CEO for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Tony Del Rosario, is a GK volunteer in Singapore. His family has built homes for 70 former squatter families in Metro Manila.

Other American companies – Procter & Gamble, Colgate, Pfizer, Citigroup, McDonalds, Bank of America, Lexmark, IBM and Convergys among many others have taken on programs with us according to the needs of our communities and their corporate interest; likewise for Telus and Sunlife of Canada. The CEO of Procter & Gamble, Jim Lafferty, spends some of his weekends serving a poor GK community outside Metro Manila with his family. This is beyond CSR; this is genuine affection for our people.

CSR is becoming standard practice for Asian brands flying in the region; Hyundai, Nissan, Fuji Xerox, Ascendas, CapitaLand and Sumitomo are some of them. Our volunteers reach the remote areas of our country in five Hyundai vans donated by Universal Motors; Chairman Richard Lee of this fast growing automotive company is a believer in social investment and is funding homes and scholarships in his personal capacity. Enlightened capitalists have become patriots and friends of the poor.

These companies are in our country for business, but their new bottom-line is profit with a bigger social conscience. This inspires their employees to render patriotic service with corporate support. In a sense they have made nation-building integral to their business plan.

Local companies naturally have embraced CSR as a sound business practice, with the added motivation that it will help end poverty in the country. They are discovering that social causes are becoming fashionable and marketable; concern for the poor and the environment is a sign of a growing patriotic fervor that attracts consumers to certain brands.

As a non-profit NGO, our corporate partners give us what is of highest value to our cause – credibility. Public trust in us is reinforced by strong corporate co-branding. Big business will not partner with us without due diligence; they will not risk their corporate image if we do not have integrity. In our setting, credibility is essential to attracting more partners and sustaining long term relationships.

This also gives us the confidence to engage government leaders to support our cause, on our terms of transparency and accountability. One of them is in front of me tonight, Mayor Freddie Tinga of Taguig City, Metro Manila. We have built hundreds of homes with him and many more to go, waded through flood waters together to distribute relief goods, and look forward to engaging more corporate partners to end poverty in his city. He shares our vision, together with many of our local executives, of bringing 5 million of our poorest families out of landlessness, homelessness and hunger by 2024.

At the end of the day, this is what CSR is for us: how we shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, work for social justice, build productivity and create abundance for all.

As we are doing this massively in the Philippines, we are also incubating this social experiment in Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and soon in India and Malaysia with the help of local partners, built along their cultural and faith values.

We have chosen Singapore as our hub, through GK Hope Initiative, in spreading this social innovation in Asia. Singapore for many is an Asian phenomenon of achieving economic growth and ending poverty within the shortest time possible. It is not a matter of size; it is for me due to visionary leadership, effective governance, responsible and disciplined citizenship… out of a deep love for country, concern for the common good of the people and pride in being Singaporean.

These are the reasons why I gave Mr. Lee Kuan Yew a standing ovation at the end of his session today.

If he can lead his people to believe in themselves and make a tiny island with scant resources and a small population base become the center of the universe in this gathering of superpowers, perhaps we should start believing in ourselves too that we can make life better in our country than what it is now.

I believe we can. There are enough heroes, among them enlightened businessmen, that will make our country rise with the rest of Asia soon.

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Young Singaporeans Visit Gawad Kalinga Davao

by admin on Dec.09, 2009, under Heroes Build / GK1MB

Written by Brenda P. Milan

Thirty high school student leaders and 6 teachers of the Geylang Methodist School of Singapore visited Gawad Kalinga sites in Davao City last November 21- 23, 2009, as part of their “ Operation Trailblazing” project. This program was designed to develop competent student leaders to have a vision , to lead and serve the community.

First on their list of GK communities was GK Medsa Village in Tibungco, where they painted the houses of 10 beneficiaries . In spite the rain on the first day, it did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the youngsters, who even worked barefooted as mud clung to their footwear, making it difficult for them to move around .

The second day began with a ”getting to know you” time between the students and the children of the GK site. Small children shyly clasped the hand of their big brother and sister and brought them to their homes. Games followed where each group introduced their favorite games. Lunch was shared between the residents and the visitors, after which they returned to painting houses.

A short but meaningful closing program capped their stay at GK Medsa Village. The students distributed basketballs, pens, food and tokens to the children and residents.

On the morning of November 23, the students and teachers visited the GK Ray of Hope Village (female detention Center) in Maa. They were entertained with dance numbers from selected senior male inmates dubbed the “dancing lolos”. Not to be outdone, the female inmates referred to as “Bakasyonistas” also presented their own dance numbers.

A very touching rendition of the song “The Greatest Love of All” was made by Joan, a talented singer from the Gk Ray of Hope. She sang from the heart the meaning of the song that “the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”

The Singaporean students proudly wore their yellow GK Shirts with the words “Kabataan: Lakas ng Pagbabago” (Youth: Force of Change) and presented their own number, singing “The Power of your Love” that drew loud applause from the crowd. They also sang a Christian action song to end their performance.

After the program, the visitors had the chance to interact with the“bakasyonistas”, play volleyball with them, buy their handicrafts and learn about their lives in the facility. Asked about their impression of the place, the students said that the GK Ray Hope village did not look and feel like the usual jail facility at all. They saw that even ehind bars”, the residents still looked happy and hopeful. They left the place filled with new insights about life and enriched by their various experiences here which they intend to share with over a thousand other students in their school

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