Gawad Kalinga Experience
Two years ago, I discovered that a cultural revolution was happening in the Philippines. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it would inspire the world and transform my life forever.
The Philippines is receiving an extreme makeover. Slums that once dotted the landscape are being transformed into bright colourful villages for the poorest of the poor. The cultural revolution that I discovered is what the Filipinos call “Gawad Kalinga” which translated into English means, “to give care.”
The formula is simple: less for self, more for others, enough for all. Rather than taking more of what you don’t need, give back so that others may have a chance to make something of themselves for their country and their family. Furthermore, nobody gets left behind. All Filipinos are being challenged to give back to their home country so that the poor may have an opportunity at a life of privilege as well and foreigners are being challenged to help the effort. With the help of its supporters, Gawad Kalinga is providing values formation and building thousands of villages in the Philippines and around the world to provide homes to the countless homeless families plagued by poverty.
After years of oppression and continued government corruption, 70% of the 85 million residents of the Philippines still live in poverty. Ironically, in a global survey conducted in 2005, Filipinos came out among the world’s happiest people. Looking through North American eyes, one might believe that such statistics must be incorrect. Afterall, when many North Americans spend their lives chasing material pursuits or the “American” dream in the pursuit of happiness, who could imagine that a country so poor could be so happy?
As a half-Filipino, I was so touched by this unique Filipino-made solution to poverty that I was inspired to retrace the roots of my heritage and journey to the Philippines to devote 6 months volunteering for the cause. When I arrived at the village where we would spend part of our 6 months, there was an immediate connection to the families who welcomed us so warmly. It was a humbling thought that even though these people came from such humble means, had little money and few possessions that they would welcome us to stay in their small homes, share their food and their lives with us. The families were quick to share stories of the struggles and pain of the past and how Gawad Kalinga changed their lives. Stories were shared of life in the slums: sleeping on cement floors infested with cockroaches, meals of only salt mixed with a bit of rice, and leaky roofs that would flood homes during downpours of rain. Men shared stories of how they lost their dignity and confidence because they could not provide for their families. At no point did they blame anyone for their pain. Despite the suffering by these people, there was something I noticed that transcended the darkness in their lives. It was an overwhelming feeling of happiness because although the people did not have enough to satisfy their basic needs, as long as they had their families, there was joy. It was at that point that I realized I was standing in the richest country in the world.
To the Filipino, family is more important than material wealth. I knew that it was the power of the family as an institution that held these people together in times of great struggle and adversity. No matter how poor they were, the love and joy that they shared as a family could never be taken away from them. For the first time in my life, I felt that I truly experienced what it means to have quality family time and it was all found in the simple pleasures of life found in nature. It was a stark contrast to the material world that many North Americans hide in to shield themselves from their brokenness. Many people blame the poor for being poor. Some attribute it to laziness but more often than not, poverty is caused by a failure of society to give those less fortunate a chance at what everyone else enjoys. Instead of giving others a chance, we are conditioned to take more than we need.
During my six-month stay in the Philippines, I will be working with the people of the GK Villages to help develop tourism as a means of livelihood in their communities. I will also be meeting and living with many of the families and documenting their stories to share with others. The work will continue until poverty around the world is eradicated, values are formed and slums no longer exist. Nobody will be left behind. If we work together to teach people to fish, they will be able to feed their families for life.
Read part 2 of the Gawad Kalinga experience – Gawad Kalinga Experience in Camarines Sur
Guest Writer: Darryl Wilson has a passion for travel and other cultures of the world having visited numerous countries including England, Scotland, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Italy, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and the Philippines among others. As a half-Filipino, the Philippines holds a special place in Darryl`s heart. He is committed to helping the Philippines rise out of poverty through tourism development. Darryl is currently in the process of setting up a non-profit organization in Canada to support work in the Philippines.
This post is contributed by a guest writer. If you are interested in contributing to the site, do feel free read the articles submission guideline, and contact us!