By: Matthew Spasaro Aspiration was the theme of the day, as past and present “alumni” gathered to share experiences while plotting a road map into the future at the 2012 GK Harvest, held in the Australian Catholic University, Strathfield.

Buoyed by lasting memories and a sprouting seed of hope, the job of tackling poverty on an international and domestic level was laid bare through dramatic acting, heart-warming video diaries and a business plan that will carry Gawad Kalinga (GK) Australia forward in its mission to eradicate poverty and restore human dignity.

Chairman of GK Australia and keynote speaker of the day, Mr Andrew Chalk, discussed the essence of GK as “building change within the individual, not just the community,” and the ongoing importance of transforming localities by establishing leaders within them.

Many inspirational GK volunteers were on show to discuss the giant strides being taken, including Irene Mayo who shared the experience her team took on the GK Health Tour. “We wanted to impart our knowledge and our skills in order for them to know how to look after themselves in specific aspects of health,” she said.

Another member from the Health Tour, Naomi Petrie, who attended her first GK trip, spoke glowingly about her highlights and the social cohesion that brought people together. “I have to say my most favourable experience of the trip was a sense of community,” she discussed. “Although these people lacked in financial and material wealth, they had an abundance of richness and community spirit engagement. It was hard to find a person there who was not smiling.”

Getting various projects off the ground requires an enormous amount of planning and preparation, as Jocytte Musa, a long time GK volunteer, recounted. Sharers from other GK immersion trips, such as Bayani Challenge (Frenzel Ano), Cambodia (Jessper Perez), PNG (Renato Villarica) and St. Aloysius (Mark Uy), also gave us an insight into their volunteer experiences. For the Philippines Outbound crew, tackling the logistics of 50+ volunteers were leaders Liam Kennedy, Joe Oconer, Julie Ann Bankowski and Juliana Lam. With the help of a shared vision and a dedicated support crew, Liam declared that, “the sacrifice has been rewarding.”

The many volunteers who contributed and offered support encapsulated the spirit of the day. This was demonstrated none better than the role-play that exposed human transformation in action. Star performers included Ralph Pusong, who showed that a career in Broadway beckons.

Special thanks must also go to the Harvest Committee, which included Sophie Watkins, Chris Davidson and Cara Bandiziol. There was also our Commander-in-chief, Miss Elaine Laforteza who directed and organised an experience that was informative and thought provocative, as well as our tech guru Nikko Salenga who treated us to a visual masterpiece.

It was a day that showcased everything fantastic about the people taking GK Australia forward and offered an insight for those looking to discover more information.

Perhaps the most important part of the 2012 GK Harvest was to see the actions of everyone making a difference. There is still some way to go but the momentum of ending poverty for five million poor families by 2024 is gaining traction. Andrew Chalk summarised the general feeling in the room best by stating, “I can’t think of anything else more important in this world.”