It seemed the poorer they were, the harder the 60-year old social entrepreneur galvanised thousands (including this author) to the Gawad Kalinga mission.
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE
by Thomas CHONG
Fellow, Center for Social Innovation, Stanford University, USA
He was born into a lower middle class family, was successful in school, qualified as a full academic scholar at the prestigious Ateneo de Manila University, graduated with a degree in economics, landed a position as a Purchasing Manager with Procter & Gamble…
…..yet Tony Meloto chose to involve himself (and later his family) in humanitarian work, equipping impoverished communities to build homes, schools, clinics, community centres and businesses. It seemed the poorer they were, the harder the 60-year old social entrepreneur galvanised thousands (including this author) to the Gawad Kalinga mission. Gawad Kalinga(GK) is the Filipino phrase which means “to give care”.
GK is a movement that builds integrated and sustainable communities in slum areas. Tito (Uncle) Tony, as he is affectionately called among the volunteers and staff, grew GK into a poverty-tackling machinery that combines multiple solutions into GK villages. As such, services include educational programmes for youths,training for aspiring community health workers and capacity building for solid waste management programmes. Indeed, GK is multifaceted in its approach to poverty alleviation and development.
More importantly, Tito Tony made sure GK went beyond building houses. While the ‘what’ was important, the ‘how’ was crucial.
Hence, the way GK went about its business, it made sure it fulfills its mission in a way that seeks to restore dignity by providing shelter and community infrastructure, and ensuring families have a stake in the community GK builds. While building materials are provided through corporate donations, GK residentsprovide “sweat equity” by helping to construct their neighbours’ homes. This had strengthened what is known among the Filipinos as the spirit of “bayanihan”, the willing sharing of any heavy load for the good of his fellowmen, or the gotong-royong spirit characteristic of Malay communities.
Tito Tony has been at the forefront of the GK work ever since. To eliminate poverty, Tito Tony led GK to focus on integrated andsustainable community building through the creation of “GK Villages”, addressing housing, education, sanitation, environmental concerns and health issues.
To date, an estimated 1 million people had benefitted from its work from 2003 through 2010. GK’s mission continues to grow, and is a serious and monumental one. After all, at least 4.5 million Filipinos are homeless, with 3 quarters of them in make-shift quarters (no pun intended) or squatters within main urban centres. About 4 million Filipino households experience involuntary hunger, and 1 in 2 does not have access to healthcare. This is sad considering the Philippines was, at one time (after World War II) the second wealthiest Asian nation, second only to Japan. Today, the gap between rich and poor is still rising.
Indeed, Tito Tony could have opted to be a businessman, a politician, go abroad, and enjoy his life as an ordinary citizen. Instead, Tito Tony had chosen the road less travelled, and blazed the trail to bring about aslum-free Philippines by addressing the plight of thousands of poor Filipino people, building shelter for the homeless, and putting others before himself. For Tito Tony, the children always come first.
To the credit of Tito Tony and his hardworking team, much had been accomplished in the area of healthcare e.g. there are 1,000 residents in more than 384 GK villages who had been trained to promote basic health concepts and first aid. These health workers also help to disseminate donated supplies and medicines. To date, GK’s geographical area of impact goes beyond the Philippines to include Cambodia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. For these and more, Tito Tony has been awarded the Ozanam Award (2003), Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (2006), Gawad Haydee Yorak Award (2006) and the Humanitarian Service Award of the Philippine Heritage Institute (2009) for his work in poverty alleviation. GK is now being implemented in almost 1,700 communities in the Philippines and in other developing countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.
It came as little surprise then that on August 31, 2006, Gawad Kalinga and Antonio Meloto, GK Chairman, both received the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, with the following citation:
“In electing the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation and its family of donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries to receive the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the boardof trustees (of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation) recognizes their harnessing the faith and generosity of Filipinos the world over to confront poverty in their homeland and to provide every Filipino thedignity of a decent home and neighborhood; and in electing Antonio Meloto to receive the 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his inspiring Filipinosto believe with pride that theirs can be a nation without slums.”
I am confident GK team will achieve this, one million at a time!
Organization: Gawad Kalinga (GK) Year Founded: 2003 Country: Philippines