Sunday, February 25, 2007

Gawad Kalinga goes worldwide

Philippine Daily Inquirer/News/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo and Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Bishop says GK new kind of People Power

MANILA, Philippines -- Hope and a better life are the latest Filipino exports. Poor as it is, the Philippines would not be left behind in the sharing department.
Gawad Kalinga (GK), the highly successful housing and development project for the poor, is going global to improve the lives of the countless poor in other countries. This major step means familiar GK key people will have to be moved and new faces will emerge. That is all there is to it.
“Walang iwanan.” (Nobody leaves, nobody gets left behind.) This was what Gawad Kalinga’s charismatic, outgoing executive director Antonio Meloto said to counter a nasty newspaper rumor that he was leaving GK, the flagship housing and development project of Couples for Christ (CFC), along with GK chair Frank Padilla.

Meloto said the spin on his and Padilla’s change of status “had been given malice, whatever the reason.”

Meloto and GK were twin awardees for community service of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation in 2006. Meloto was the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year for 2006.

Meloto and Padilla will now work as “roving ambassadors-at-large or ambassadors of goodwill” for GK’s advocacies. This means traipsing the globe to “unleash the Filipino spirit of hope.”

New kind of People Power
To Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, this is the new kind of “people power” the country needs as it commemorates the 21st anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt.

The Jaro prelate said the 1986 popular uprising could no longer be commemorated the way it was done in recent years.

“The memory of the people about People Power has diminished. The children who are 20 years old now do not really know what people power was,” Lagdameo said at Thursday’s turnover of a housing project which GK helped build for church workers in Jaro.

“I feel there is a shift in image in our celebration of People Power now. That image or icon now is Gawad Kalinga,” said Lagdameo.

The new work Meloto and Padilla have taken on upon themselves is both awesome and daunting.

Expanding advocacy
“With so many opportunities to upscale, upgrade and go global,” Meloto said, “I have to free and detach myself from operational matters and fund management.”

Luis Oquiñena takes over as GK executive director. Jose T. Tale takes over Padilla’s post as GK board chair.

“I will now focus on building the GK global network of partners and expanding advocacy abroad,” Meloto told the Inquirer. He said GK would start projects in developing countries such as India, Nigeria, South Africa and Nicaragua.

GK has already built more than 100,000 homes all over the Philippines and in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. More than 1,000 GK communities have been built in 350 towns and cities.

And there’s enough donated land for 300,000 more houses to be built.

Global recognition
Going global is part of the GK777 campaign that means building 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in seven years by year 2010.

Last Feb. 14 and 15, Singapore President S.R. Nathan who was on a state visit, attended GK events in Baseco in Tondo and Calamba, Laguna. He extended his country’s support for more homes in Laguna, to the typhoon victims in Sorsogon, and for education and health programs in the Singaporean-funded GK Village in Baseco.

Nathan said his country also wanted to help children in GK communities in Muslim Mindanao.

Previous to this, Meloto said, the Canadian government, particularly in the provinces of Ontario and Alberta, had given support to the mudslide victims of Southern Leyte. AIG USA, Fedex and UPS were among the multinationals that contributed to local GK communities.

To date, more than 300 corporations have supported GK projects.

Rebuild the motherland
Meloto added that the city of London, through the Lord Mayor, also gave aid for the victims through GK. This was after receiving positive feedback from British GK volunteer Dylan Wilk, British Ambassador Peter Beckingham and his wife Jill, as well as from executives of British corporations in the Philippines that had adopted their own villages.

GK donors are tax-exempt in the United States, Canada and Australia. It has a US partner, Ancop, to which Fil-American donors could channel donations.

“Filipinos abroad are coming home to help rebuild their motherland,” Meloto enthused. “Many Filipino doctors and other health professionals in North America are supporting us by adopting GK communities. Corporate executives who have retired are volunteering their expertise, some even give up their promising careers to work with GK full time. Ateneo University and the University of the Philippines are putting up the GK Institute for the training of volunteers, caretaker teams and the local government unit (LGU) partners for township development.”

Family and church estates
Not to be outdone are the counterparts at home who have put in not just sweat equity but their properties as well. The Lopezes of Iloilo, the Aranetas of Negros, the Laurels of Batangas—these old and landed families have given their share. The Benitezes of Laguna recently gave 18 hectares, with former Bayanihan dancers donating 100 houses.