Our office trip to Bantayan Island (see yesterday's post) wasn't only for rest and recreation. The more important objective was team building. In our case, it was quite literal.
Gawad Kalinga (GK), which means "to give care," is a poverty-alleviation and nation-building movement which builds houses and creates communities all over the Philippines for the poorest Filipinos. GK communities are known for their colorful houses, which is but the first step in the long process of poverty-alleviation. There is a young GK Village in Bantayan Island—named the Pope Francis GK Village—and we spent our first afternoon there.
GK is completely funded by donations and powered by volunteers. The land for the Pope Francis GK Village was donated by the municipality, which increased the donation after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed many of the coastal villages in Bantayan Island. The houses are largely funded by Xavier School and the ERDA Group, both Jesuit institutions based in Manila.
The simplest way of volunteering is by helping build houses, which is what we did. The boys did the heavy work of mixing the sand, cement and water. (I tried, but my arm strength is absolutely pathetic.) That's our big boss dude in the Hawaiian shirt.
We passed buckets of the cement mixture for the floor of one of the units. Aside from volunteers, GK houses are built by their recipients, who have to log in 300 hours of labor and attendance in values formation workshops before they can move in. GK calls it "sweat equity." And the formation continues long after the beneficiaries receive their houses—necessary if one wants to build real communities and not just houses.
Before we left, some of the children of Pope Francis GK Village performed a dance for us, a dance that they had been practicing for a big GK event.
To learn more about Gawad Kalinga, and maybe even donate or volunteer, please visit their website.