In March 2015, Sydney-based rock band Bonney Read went on a tour to the Philippines with a difference. Not only were they able to perform for Filipino crowds, they also took out time to visit GK villages, learn more about the GK programs and give back to those less fortunate. Band members Jess Cooper, Kat Ayala, Astrid Holz and Jeremy Goldfinch were very inspired by their experience in the Philippines and it left a lasting impression on each of them. They were able to share about their experiences below.

 Bonney Read at Route 196; from left to right - Astrid, Kate, Jess and Jeremy

Bonney Read at Route 196; from left to right - Astrid, Kate, Jess and Jeremy

Q: Which GK sites/villages did you go to visit?

We visited GK Telus, where we ran a music workshop at the Sibol School; GK Sitio Pajo, where we learned about GK's processes and spent time with the community members. We went back there for a second day to help prepare the food at Kusina ng Kalinga, feed the kids, and perform for them.

We also visited the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan where we spent one day running workshops on Creativity and Teamwork with the SEED scholars, and went back a second day for an orientation and tour, where we learned all the ins and outs of the farm.

Q: What brought you to visit GK and its initiatives in the Philippines?

As a band we knew that we wanted to do something a little bit different with our music other than simply jumping on stage and making an atrocious amount of noise. Individually we all have a passion for music education and truly believe in the power of music, and so when we decided to tour the Philippines we went on the hunt for an organisation that we could align ourselves with. We quickly found Joomajam: a social enterprise that inspires children to participate in education through the enjoyment of music. This really was a perfect fit for us. Joomajam run their programs in conjunction with GK, so in essence that’s how we were introduced. After learning more about GK’s initiatives over in the Philippines, we were incredibly inspired and excited to be involved moving forward.

Q: What was your favourite memory or highlight from your trip?

Individually we all have many, but there is no doubt that we all hold a special place in our heart for our first experience at a GK Community. We had played a performance the night before at a bar called Saguijo - a mainstay of the Manila music scene. After literally 2 hours sleep, the next morning we trekked out to GK Telus and jumped straight into a classroom with 20 children around the age of 5. We were given some basic instruments and invited to run the class. By the end of the hour (after singing, dancing and jumping around like 5 year olds ourselves), we had made connections with these kids even though they didn’t speak english. Music had crossed over culture and language, and enabled us to show love and support. The band was inspired and so excited by the experience, we will never forget it.

Q: Who from the GK village(s) or GK workers that you met you will always remember? Why?

We met so many people through Joomajam and GK that inspired us and still continue to inspire us when we think of them. We worked closest with Vin, Mark, Coco, and Nesty. They took us under their wings, educated us, shared their passions and ideas with us, and enabled us to contribute to causes that we care about - through music. We cannot express our gratitude for their generosity and their infectious drive.

We will no doubt remember everyone we spent time with and look forward to seeing them again when we return on our next tour. We all agree, however, that Nesty made a very significant impact on all of us. Nesty dedicates his life to the GK initiatives, which include managing a number of GK villages, helping to run a kitchen that feeds thousands of hungry children every day, employing disadvantaged teens in his restaurant where he loves to cook, and more. When he speaks, the passion for helping others flows out of him. He is truly an incredible human being and we would all love to be a little more like Nesty.

Q: How do feel about your experience? What did you learn from the experience and the people you met?

Our tour in the Philippines was an incredibly humbling and enlightening experience that changed all of our perspectives on the world, and on life. We've always wanted to make a difference through our passion for music, and we've always believed that we could achieve special things with it. Our experiences in the Philippines confirmed all of those hopes and dreams. We proved to ourselves that we can indeed make a positive difference by doing exactly what we love to do - that we can make important music that is valuable, not just to ourselves, but to the world, and we also have a better idea of how to accomplish that.

The band moves very differently, now that we've made giving back to community a primary motivation. It's changed everything.

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