A Filipino-made solution

By  Darryl Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • August 25, 2009
TAGUIG CITY, Philippines - Two years ago I discovered 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.

This month, I landed in the Philippines to begin six months of work with the Gawad Kalinga movement. 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.

But what inspired me to go? As I discovered, while still in Canada, 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. This cultural revolution, which the Filipinos call “Gawad Kalinga,” translates into English as “to give care.” The formula is simple: less for self, more for others, enough for all. Filipinos around the world are being challenged to give back to their home country. 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 homeless families.

After years of oppression and continued government corruption, 70 per cent of the 85 million residents of the Philippines still live in poverty. Ironically, in a 2005 global survey, Filipinos came out among the world’s happiest people. Looking through North American eyes, one might believe that such statistics are incorrect. After all, 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 that I made the decision to come here. When I arrived at the village where we would spend part of our six months, there was an immediate connection to the families. It was a humbling thought that even though these people came from such humble means, had little money and few possessions, they welcomed us to stay in their small homes, share their food and their lives with us.

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. Men spoke 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. Something transcended the darkness in their lives. As long as they had their families, there was joy. I then realized I was standing in the richest country in the world.

The work of Gawad Kalinga 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.

(Wilson, 24, recently studied tourism management at Camosun College in Victoria.)

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