Recently, I posted about an online conversation that I had participated in with Gawad Kalinga (GK) and their supporters in the Philippines. 'Gawad Kalinga' means to give care and this organisation was founded by Tony Meloto who, devastated by the poverty in his nation, was inspired to make a positive, lasting difference to all.  Google gave an introduction to the work of GK that inspired me to learn more. 

Last weekend I participated in GK Melbourne's first assembly. This event was attended by a small but inspirational group of supporters and was convened by Marisa, a dedicated, hardworking and committed local leader. The Assembly told of successful fundraising events, visits by volunteers to a variety of sites in the Philippines to build or re-build houses and schools, and a first hand account of the heart breaking devastation of a beautiful family in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. 

I learned that GK is based on volunteerism with the understanding that not all Filipinos can give financially but certainly, all can share their time and their talents. I learned of the ways in which GK as an organisation, challenges and inspires the Filipino people to give wholeheartedly to the cause; their country, their people. For example, when the organisation needs to transport goods they look to locals to loan them a truck, to donate fuel and to provide a driver. Happily, I learned that this is an organisation very familiar with the concept of a shoestring budget!

Luis Oquinena, the Executive Director of GK shared the notion that money, while vitally important to the GK cause is most definitely, not the essential ingredient. He explained that when one's heart is filled with love and compassion for another then the greatest gifts are bestowed; gifts that bring hope, gifts that say,"You are a beautiful person who deserves to be treated with the utmost care, respect and dignity." The gifts bestowed on the the most poor; physically, spiritually and emotionally, are gifts that are inspired and given by the head, heart and hands.

I learned that so far GK has assisted those affected by Typhoon Yolanda by providing 3,000 houses, nutritious meals for 3,500 children daily and 797 boats for fishing communities. Earlier this year over 1 million volunteers built houses and fishing boats, refurbished schools and fed masses of hungry children. They don't want to rest on their laurels. Their goals are higher than ever before.

My introduction to GK was simply inspirational. The mission of GK is simple but powerful; to end poverty for 5 million Filipino families in a way that is life giving and empowering. Achieiving the vision of a poverty free Philippines, is of course, no easy feat and requires ongoing innovation and  commitment. And it was in Melbourne last Saturday night that I heard rich stories of love, passion and dedication. I was truly inspired by a humble and selfless leader who was rightly insistent that the basic human rights I so easily take for granted must be available to all.  When justice prevails, nobody is left behind. And this is so aptly encapsulated in GK's motto, 'Walang Iwanan'. 

Written by Christine Shaw from her blog: