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Gawad Kalinga: Building on the Bayanihan Spirit Most of us have heard or come across GK or Gawad Kalinga through some

friends who have, at some point, devoted their weekend lifting hollow blocks or painting walls in a weekend GK Build. It is a movement built stronger because it banks on one of our endearing traits —the bayanihan spirit. Gawad Kalinga’s founder, Tony Meloto credits his inspiration for GK from his work with impoverished citizens when he was assigned as the Country Coordinator for Australia for Couples for Christ (CFC). In 1995, when CFC initiated a youth development program for gang members and delinquents in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, he realized that one’s environment could impact one’s behavior. Living in slum areas could turn people into forlorn and unproductive citizens, a perfect breeding ground for crime and violence. Having found a way out of poverty through education, Tony understood that poverty was not an economic, but a behavioral problem. In 2002, Gawad Kalinga was established as a global movement aimed to address poverty through building integrated, sustainable, and dignified homes with the dream of turning the Philippines into a slum-free country. Upon its launch, 11 teams implemented child and youth programs, health programs and shelters, powered by volunteers from the Singles and Couples for Christ group. GK has since transcended to soaring heights, gaining thousands of supporter- volunteers, coming together towards one significant purpose: End the mindset of Pinoy poverty. It has formulated a 3-tier developmental program to contribute to the country’s roadmap to progress. These programs are geared to provide solutions to the problems affecting Social Justice, Social Artistry, and Social Progress on a national perspective. It is a 21-year journey that the group has embarked on, with the vision of achieving scale and sustainability by developing the grassroots community along with key sectors and partners abroad.

To date, Gawad Kalinga has successfully built over 2,000 communities in the Philippines and even in other developing countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, and Papua New Guinea. Driven by a strong commitment to help, Tony and his Gawad Kalinga family continues to ignite the spark of hope that one day, not only our country, but the whole world will realize the dream of a poverty-free society. It still is a dream, but no doubt he will never get tired of keeping it alive with each house built, each community established, each Filipino family now safely nestled under the safety and comfort of a house built through the strength of bayanihan.

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