Can we earn a living that will also create change in society?For Gawad Kalinga (GK) Founder Tony Meloto, the answer is a big YES. Every individual has the capacity to earn and at the same time, uplift lives…if only we have the heart for it.
Last month, I immersed myself in a 3-day start-up Social Business Camp at GK Enchanted Farm. It is one of Gawad Kalinga’s programs to raise social entrepreneurs in the Philippines. Social Entrepreneurship teaches us how to create a business that will also benefit the local community. My experience at the camp was life changing. Not only did I learn about Social Entrepreneurship, but I was also inspired to pursue a more meaningful endeavor.
ENCHANTED FARM UNIVERSITY
We arrived at GK Enchanted Farm a little past 9 in the morning. It was a busy day at the farm with all the seminars, workshops and talks going on. Nevertheless, the beauty of the surrounding, the sweet smell of fresh air and the sound of nature gave us a warm welcome.
What used to be an unproductive land is now a “Farm Village University”. As Tony Meloto puts it, GK Enchanted Farm is “The Disneyland of Social Tourism” and “The Silicon Valley of Social Entrepreneurship”.
We held our first session at the Bamboo Palace which is used for design camps, conventions and special events. The IASIS Health and wholeness center is still under construction, but will be used to promote awareness and education about healthy lifestyle.
At the farm, you will notice a blend of the brown, black & white, rich & poor, young & adults – All working together with the community. You can see diverse nationalities making cheese; employees sewing stuff toys with the nanays (mothers) and the youth helping the tatays (fathers) plant lemongrass. Here, you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who are working towards a common goal – to end poverty. Having witnessed all these restored my faith that there is really HOPE for the Philippines.
SOCIAL BUSINESS CAMP
The intensive training at the camp gave me a glimpse of what is it like to be a Social Entrepreneur. From day one, our mentors already shared a lot of stories about overcoming adversities, tales of heart breaks and chronicles of repeated failures.
I’ll never forget the story of how GK Enchanted Farm was built with no plans & resources, but they never stopped until they got it right.
Solar Panels by Schneider Electric
The story of Plush & Play’s journey in search for toxic free materials that seem impossible, but they never gave up until they were able to produced toys that are safe for the children.
And of course the story of Bayani Brew’s struggle to keep up with demands, but was able to pull it through in the end.
Hearing the different stories will make you understand why one of their mottos is “Don’t quit, don’t ever think to quit, never quit”. The drive of the people behind each enterprise is just amazing. I think if your heart is really committed to helping others and you share the same vision, you will not easily give up and get discouraged.
So what else did I learn, un-learn & relearn at the camp? Here are some more of my key takeaways:
1.Social Entrepreneurship is the new sexy
“We are a country so rich in natural resources, but claim we are poor. What we need to do is educate and bring the genius of the poor and rich together. Let’s show the world we can do it”.
Here’s how I understand social entrepreneurship. It is a combination of
INNOVATION + INCLUSION = POSITIVE RETURN TO SOCIETY
It is the “new sexy” because Social Entrepreneurship encourages wealth creation where no one is left behind. Social Entrepreneurship also combines the use of our own resources and talents to come up with world-class Filipino brands that will create profit with positive impact to society. Isn’t that sexy?
In case you want to know more about social entrepreneurship, click this video.
2.Be a Disruptor
Being a Changemaker is not an easy path to take. It brings you out of your comfort zone. One needs to be patient, persistent & ambitious. As Joni, one of the volunteer shares, “There are days when I ask myself, what am I doing here? Am I doing the right thing? It’s easy to get lost, but what bring me back on track are the kids and the people in the community who I care for”
Listening and being in a company of Disruptors will inspire and move you because of their humble hearts. They all have their stories of heart breaks, but one thing is common in all of them – they embrace their advocacy whole-heartedly.
3.Go back to Farming
On our second day, we woke up early and went out on the field to plant lemongrass and meet the farmers. The experience kicked off the morning agenda that talked about the LOVE for farming.
It’s sad to hear that the poorest of the poor are the farmers. Come to think of it, without them, food will not be enough for everyone. Farmers are one of the most important people in the society, then why are they are left behind?
I believe it’s about time that we go back to the country side. There is a need to think of ways to create wealth and make our lands productive. We must also realize, act and believe that there is no reason for any Filipino to be poor.
4.Together, we can end poverty
GK’s dream to end poverty for 5 million families in 2024 might be too ambitious or impossible for some. But for me, I believe in this dream. I’ve seen lives changed; people moved into action and individuals join this peaceful revolution for change. In my own little ways, I’d like to contribute what I can to empower communities and fight poverty. Wouldn’t you?
5.Words of wisdom from Tony Meloto
I have been fortunate enough to sit with great people who create change and live meaningfully. And one of them is Tony Meloto. He’s a very simple man. But his big heart makes him extraordinary. You’ll admire how he gives his time unselfishly. He shows up in people’s lives, shares his wisdom and invests in relationship with every person he meets. His humility in sharing his life’s experiences will move anyone to action. What makes him a great man is his belief that what is important is not what he achieved, but what he will leave behind.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from him:
“The heart of our country’s poverty is the Filipino’s colonial mindset. We are used to foreign brands and don’t even know that some of the best foreign brands get their raw materials from the Philippines. We need to make that change and create wealth for our own people”
“No human is a criminal. It’s humankind that makes him one”
“We need to bring the genius of the poor and rich together”
“Go towards the unusual path”
“Create wealth, but bring the poor people with you”
“The field of innovation sets no boundaries. Put your heart into your choice and everything will feel right”
“Success is not for quitters”
“You have something of value. Share them”
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
If you’d like to learn more about GK Enchanted Farm and Social Entrepreneurship, you can visit these links:
- Visit GK Enchanted Farm
- Social Business Camps
- Center for Social Innovation(CSI) Nights at GK Enchanted Farm Cafe
Do you know how joyful the people are at the farm? Picture this…
Have a Fun And Beautiful day! 🙂