How to Beat Poverty by Building Homes and Teaching Entrepreneurship?


To beat poverty is a dream for many. Poverty is a social and economic predicament for every country in the world.

In a third world country like the Philippines, an organization aspires to eradicate poverty by rallying all sectors of society to participate in its program. Multinational corporations, government agencies, bank sectors, religious organizations, and individuals made the organization a part of their social responsibility. They extend assistance through financial donation and real help.

Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, Inc. or GK aims to end poverty in the Philippines and around the world. Thus, bridging the gap between the reach and the poor.

It began with the first youth camp held in 1994. The camp reached out to 127 youths in the biggest slum area in Metro Manila. The organization started by building houses for the families from the slum area. They gave each family a decent home, assist in their children’s education, and created jobs for the community.

Gawad Kalinga (GK) means ‘to give care’. GK acts to alleviate poverty in the Philippines by building homes and helping poor communities to be entrepreneurs. Their projects become successful due to the volunteers’ and communities’ care and effort in helping others.

GK fights poverty by addressing its grassroots. They discovered that the loss of dignity of a human diminishes his will to dream and seek opportunities to achieve his dreams.  GK made the poor as productive members of society by initially restoring their confidence. They provided their basic needs to live dignified lives and opened the doors of opportunity to them.

To create doors of opportunity for the poor, GK capitalized on social entrepreneurship. This is where community partners came in to assist in generating jobs for the GK communities.

One of their partners, SEED Philippines, is an education-based solution to rural development. An international team of social entrepreneurs mentors the underprivileged youths through hands-on learning. SEED or School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development focuses on rural development by raising young agri-entrepreneurs.

The GK Enchanted Farm complements SEED for its students’ hands-on farming. The farm also has a group of French volunteers as interns and receives interns from around the world. Enchanted Farm engages in growing things like lemongrass, sweet potato, and citronella, turning it to juices and oils. The farm community also makes cheese and bake bread to augment their families’ income.

GKonomiks is another social enterprise partner of GK. Social entrepreneurs, skilled volunteers, corporations, and the academe worked with the community for product development. At the same time, the GKonomiks team teaches social entrepreneurship to the community.

Products the communities developed range from hand weave cloths, bags (made of recycled material, indigenous material, or leather), wristlets, tablet cover, mobile phone holder, pouches, and organizers. In contrast, some edible products available are artisan chocolates, pastry, vegetable pasta, carabao’s milk, and mushroom chips.

Make Peace Bakery, one of Gawad Kalinga’s social entrepreneurship. Photo by Jewel Sico

Another GK’s social enterprise partner, Human Nature, creates natural beauty products and personal care products. Sourcing out some of their raw materials of citronella, coconut oil, and lemongrass from GK’s farming communities. It pays at above-market prices and provides the farmers and its families training and processing equipment.

Human Nature also supports GK and other social enterprises by being their partner distributor and giving their products display space in its physical and online stores.

From the spark of goodness GK started, it now spilled over to other developing countries.

In Papua New Guinea, GK built Gerehu GK Village. The beneficiaries of Gerehu used to be part of tribal gangs in the city. Then, GK brings its education program to the youths in Jakarta. Afterward, they built a sanctuary called GK Rafaella Village for 20 families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Gawad Kalinga founder, Mr. Antonio “Tony” Meloto has been recognized with awards for social entrepreneurship by different organizations. In 2006, he received Asia’s Nobel Peace Prize for Community Leadership Award from the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation.

At the award ceremony, Tony Meloto summarizes what GK is.  Quoting from his speech: “Gawad Kalinga has thousands of faces. These are faces of every Filipino ethnicity, faith, and social class — of donors at home and abroad who are providing the money and land for new villages; of volunteers across the Philippines who are joining their families, and friends, and schoolmates, and officemates, and fellow church members to build houses and to provide Gawad Kalinga villages with training and services; of executives, lawyers, doctors, architects, and other professionals. These are also the face of over two hundred thousand grateful beneficiaries.”

Even the late Philippine President, Corazon Aquino, stated about Gawad Kalinga, “GK is people power and people power is GK.”

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