Enchanted Farm draws int’l youth volunteers
1:28 am | Saturday, June 25th, 2011
A top Filipino graduate was all set to pursue higher studies in the United States as a Fulbright program scholar.
But she passed up the opportunity and responded to what she considered a higher calling. She found herself working in a farm in a nondescript village strangely named “Encanto” in Angat, Bulacan province.
That’s where she met another volunteer, a young French woman now designing bags and garments for the community put up by Gawad Kalinga (GK).
A total of 400 interns from Europe flew halfway across the globe, including 1,000 volunteers from Singapore, to be part of the pioneering “business ecosystem” project now thriving in the village.
Angat’s Enchanted Farm is considered the first Center for Social Innovation in the country, a venture that gathers the “best and brightest” to become young entrepreneurs.
They are housed in one community, the idea being nature teems with raw materials and opportunities for any successful business. Needed only are creative minds and a neighborhood that refuses to stay poor. As in other GK endeavors, the ultimate goal is to empower the Filipino and eliminate poverty.
“This is the real bayanihan, what the public-private partnership is really all about,” said Antonio Meloto, GK founder and chair.
President Benigno Aquino III on Friday inaugurated the Enchanted Farm, urging the youth to “dream big,” one that would go beyond merely finding employment later on.
“Don’t be afraid to dream. Your government is behind, always ready to support you. It is here to ensure that all your effort and hard work won’t be wasted, that Filipinos won’t go bankrupt,” he said in Filipino in his speech.
The President added that with the growing investor confidence in the Philippine economy, “there’s nothing wrong with aiming to put up one’s own business or even a multinational company.”
Even with no direct contribution to the GK project, Mr. Aquino was optimistic that it could accomplish its goal to encourage half a million Filipinos to become “social entrepreneurs” in the next five years.
The President thanked Gawad Kalinga for sustaining the idea of bayanihan, the same concept of volunteerism that won the people the past presidential election.
“It is the same volunteerism that is sustaining our campaign toward better governance, the volunteerism that fuels our drive against deeply embedded systems of corruption,” the President said.
Mr. Aquino reiterated that the government was grateful to individuals or groups whose sole interest in dealing with government is to help the people.
Gawad Kalinga, according to a Malacañang press statement, has become a movement of nation-building because of its courage to care and its ability to inspire greatness in every Filipino. Its objective is to bring the Philippines out of poverty by 2024 with a simple platform: land for the landless, homes for the homeless and food for the hungry.
What started in Bagong Silang in Caloocan City has now spawned over 2,000 communities nationwide with impact on the lives of one million of the poorest Filipinos, and it is now being adopted as a global template by other nations like Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, the Palace said.
Mr. Aquino’s capital apparently is the “inspiration” many Filipinos got since he replaced former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose administration was marred by allegations of corruption.
“Not only do we have a trusted President. We also have a competent Cabinet,” Meloto said.
The Center for Social Innovation seeks to build a “culture of entrepreneurship” among the youth. GK communities like the one in Barangay (village) Encanto serve as “production and distribution platforms for globally competitive Filipino brands.”
Meloto said his group plans to establish such centers in every province in the country.
So far, the venture, a list of 10 projects and services, such as “Happy Green,” which develops “native, healthy and unique farm-to-market beverages with grassroots communities.”
Other brands include: Theo & Philo (chocolate bar), Gourmet Keso (dairy products), Sawsawan ni Juan (condiments), Red Carpet (furnishings), Blue Bamboo (bamboo products) and Grassroots Kitchen (catering).