Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gawad Kalinga reshaping the global development landscape

Hope and expectations are high among supporters of Gawad Kalinga (GK) that GK is the way to a kinder, gentler, and more loving world. Conflict and violence, even for a good cause, will not lead to peace and prosperity in the long run. The hurts, suffering, and pains must be overcome. A new way must be forged, one founded on forgiveness and the heroic and sacrificial love, service, and leadership of Jesus Christ. This is the model that Gawad Kalinga espouses and is showing to be viable.

A week since the GK1World activities, I continue to marvel at how organizers and Gawad Kalinga workers were able to gather some of the best and brightest to strategize on how to make this vision a reality. Neither the cold, windy, and unpredictable weather nor the long-hours failed in dampening the spirits and energy of the participants to the Highway of Hope caravan, the ONE Celebration at Kimball Park, National City, and the two-day GK Builders Summit at the Marriot Del Mar. This GK1World celebration is a preview of what Gawad Kalinga aims to initiate and accomplish in the coming years.

Fil-Am supporters in San Diego, led by uber-businessmen Tony Olaes and Robert Sanchez, smitten by the Gawad Kalinga bug, organized and help fund the GK1World celebration, which sought to help ramp up Gawad Kalinga’s capacities. This they did by laying the groundwork for tapping into the compassion, generosity, skills, talents, and resources- the padugo- of both the Fil-Am and mainstream American communities.

The ONE caravan, led by NAFFAA officer JoAnn Fields, sought to highlight the important socio-economic-political presence of Fil-Ams in San Diego with a motorcade through the Fil-Am Highway along CA-54. The motorcade also capped the epic three-month, 22,000 plus miles, 80-city Highway of Hope caravan of Dylan Wilk and Nathan Mari with their families, which raised awareness of Gawad Kalinga in the United States. The response of Fil-Am communities through out the country has been awesome and inspiring. According to the dynamic duo, they expect up to 150 new Gawad Kalinga chapters in the United States committed to supporting Gawad Kalinga in various ways. Quite a number publicly pledged to do so during the GK Builders Summit.

The day-long ONE celebration at Kimball Park, National City was equally impressive. Occupying practically the whole park, the literal Fiesta had a gigantic slide for kids, games, food and vendor booths, as well as a GK model home, informational kiosks, and products from GK communities. The ONE variety show lasted a marathon seven hours and featured at least 21 performances and Fil-Am talents, some of whom were quite good. Hosted by Apo Hiking Society’s Danny Javier and celebrity KC Montero, notable performers included Q-York, Passion, Pasacat Folk Dancers, Jessica Sanchez, Soulutions Band (watch out for this talented group), Samahan Folk Dancers, Honare, Noly, Mabuhay Rondalla, Freda Simone, Agos (whose CD sales allot a percentage to GK), Chidren of Mother Earth, Marlone Dane, Rising Star, Kuh Ledesma, and capped by Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo and

Arizona had its star in Jessica Cox, a U. of Arizona psychology graduate, who gave a short inspirational talk, after being interviewed by Danny Javier on stage. Jessica is the first person without arms to fly solo. She is also a blackbelt in taekwondo and is a motivational speaker (see Her brother Jason Cox will be organizing the first GK Builders Assembly in Tucson this summer.

The ONE Celebration had extensive private sector support. Seafood City Supermaket is an active GK supporter and is calling for applications to its one-year, funded-Seafood City/GK Builders Corps. Kuh Ledesma’s Hacienda Isabela, a complete spa, wellness, and nature-resort in Indang, Cavite, will contribute one GK home for each Hacienda Lifetime membership bought. Tony Olaes has agreed to market/distribute the health drink Mona Vie with all profits to go to GK. He has also committed to raising $5M by 2009 for GK to use in its global scale up. Other partners for ONE included the RCBC remit center, Southwest Airlines, and, Mabuhay Alliance.

The next day, ANCOP USA hosted the GK Builders Summit 2008 at the Marriot Del Mar. At least 300 attended from all over the United States. Gawad Kalinga leaders including GK Executive Director Luis Onquiñena, GK Program Head Mari Oquiñena, GK father figure Tony Meloto, GK finance honcho Mike Goco, GK intellectual Boy Montelibano and GKom head Maria Montelibano led the Manila team. Couples for Christ, parent of GK, had its Director and GK Chair Joe Tale (also a member of the CFC International Council) along with fellow elder Dr. Joe Yamamoto. ANCOP had all their top guns there from Chairman Ricky Cuenca, Executive Director Rose Cabrera to its National Management Committee and Regional Coordinators.

The schedule was packed and involved talks, videos showings, updates and reports, and interactive workshops. The Summit’s goal was to understand, plan, strategize, and hopefully implement activities that will capture the evolving nature of Gawad Kalinga. This is especially significant for GK/ANCOP USA because, as GK notes, Fil-Ams in the United States and Filipinos in the Philippines and all over the world, are becoming an Army of Builders. Like Jesus’ message of love and sacrifice, “every single person who hears the message of GK spoken becomes a BUILDER of the GK movement” (Gawad Kalinga 2008). The evolution is one of a donor to a partner, then a builder. In the United States, there are from 2.5 to 4.5 million Fil-Ams. Gawad Kalinga aims to reach them and spread the message of HOPE that, through padugo, the Philippines can overcome poverty, inequality, and (social) exclusion.

Consider the following developments. Fil-Ams and Fil-Canadians have funded at least 320 GK communities, which are now entering their education, health, environment, and productivity phases. These communities still need maintenance help and capacity building in order for them to become more self-reliant and themselves become partners in developing and helping other GK communities.

Ricky Cuenca and Rose Cabrera reported that Gawad Kalinga is entering the African continent, where generations have been lost to AIDS, poverty, war, and environmental destruction. Africa needs HOPE and Gawad Kalinga seeks to provide it. Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria will host the first GK pilot sites.

Gawad Kalinga seeks to establish 2,000 new GK communities this year to exponentially ramp up the number of communities. With God’s and everyone’s help, the goal of 7,000 communities by the year 2010 is becoming feasible. In order to achieve this, Gawad Kalinga needs to recruit a million volunteers worldwide, inspire members of Couples for Christ to become more active in GK, prepare GK beneficiaries to become GK partners themselves, and transform supporters from the academic, private, and governmental sectors into key partners. It is a grounds-up, nation-building model in the works.

Recently, Tony Meloto reported that the Philippine Department of Agriculture offered to fund the entire 300 demonstration farms that GK was planning on rolling out. The offer jumpstarts the GK food productivity and abundance program. He also noted that the City of Taguig aims to supplant Makati as the country’s financial and business center. With Fort Bonifacio as the anchor and with GK as an active partner, Taguig aims to be squatter free (10,000-15,000 squatter families), its wet markets lining C5 upgraded, a new international airport proposed, and the area fronting Laguna de Bay transformed into a visitor and resident-friendly recreation center. Already, news is out that the Philippine Stock Exchange will be unified in Taguig.

Alaminos, Pangasinan Mayor Nani Braganza shares the same thinking. In his talk, he reported that Alaminos is jueteng-free. They’ve been able to reduce malnutrition from 22% to 7%. He is partnering up with GK to assist 1,000 squatter families and build 30 GK villages in his town. The future also thus lies in dynamic and innovative local leaders. Around 350 mayors are tapping GK in solving their twin problems of squatting and poverty. The work cut out for GK is massive, hence the call for heroism and padugo to fellow Filipinos and kindred spirits worldwide.

Help is coming in other unconventional ways. Luis Onquiñena reported that all campuses of Rizal University covering its 17,000 students are and will do service in GK sites. About 100 universities in the Philippines have various forms of cooperative agreements with GK. The retiring heads of Wyeth Philippines and AIG/PhilAm Life will be working full-time voluntarily for GK. They will bring with them personal resources, time, talents, and their network. Former Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo and his wife, Malen are using their expertise in business and the social sciences, as well as their network to tap in to philanthropic sources in the Washington D.C. area.

Tony Meloto observed that partnering with GK makes good sense. GK is becoming the Armani and Gucci of community development. The Philippine Star reported a 100% positive support in a survey it conducted on GK. Next year the GK Builders Summit will be held either in Harvard or MIT as GK seeks to establish its presence in Philippine and American universities in the hope of melding the “Science, System, and Spirit” of GK. On October 10, 2010 or 10-10-10, there will be a massive gathering in the Philippines to celebrate what GK has achieved and what it will be doing in the coming years.

The future is unfolding for GK.

Nathan Mari calls it G(od’s) K(ingdom).