Last Monday, I had coffee with an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a long long time. We joined a multinational fast food chain at the same time maybe 11 years ago, and in less than a year, moved around the same time to a multinational FMCG.
We lost touch about 7 years ago, when I left that FMCG company to scratch an entrepreneurial itch. I tried to get in touch with him a couple of times in the past but was a bit unsuccessful. One of which was to consult him on Trade Marketing when I got assigned to a Trade Marketing post. He is one of the most brilliant Trade Marketing practitioner I know… in fact one of the most brilliant person I know.
The three hour coffee session was not enough to catch up on life, family, work and spiritual journey. While most of my sharing was about the spiritual community I joined this year; most of his sharing was on his involvement with Gawad Kalinga on building viable social enterprises for the communities.
I got very interested. Over the years, I was lucky enough to have been involved in building a number Gawad Kalinga houses with the different organizations Ive been part of. Just before I left Hapinoy(a social enterprise venture) in 2007 to join back the corporate world, I remember the founders of Hapinoy having discussions with GK as GK has been working on building social enterprises for the communities that have moved into the built houses. I got excited over the possibility of being able to be involved in another social enterprise.
My friend said that he visits the Angat, Bulacan GK site every Saturday. I asked if I can join him and he was kind enough to let me tag along when he visited that Saturday afterday.
We left somewhere near Ateneo at around 830am, and got to the Enchanted Farm Village University at around 1030. A number of big companies have donated for the construction of a number of buildings to house and support the part time and full time social entrepreneurs who are working on different business models on different products that will provide livelihood and/or employment to the residents of the GK village.
There are around 15 or so social enterprises currently being developed, ranging from agriculture, poultry and pig raising, meat processing, toy manufacturing. Sadly, I wasn’t able to take pictures of most of them, as I was quite engrossed in the farm tour my friend gave me. During the long walk to the pig raising area, my friend and I had a quite interesting discussion on building careers, building teams and building dreams, on raising pigs, raising children and raising expectations, among other things.
One of the social enterprise my friend was working on is meat(pork) processing; developing healthy preservatives-free food products that are affordable. I was very excited about this, as I know from our(my wife and I) recent grocery trips that going heathy if quite expensive – about 20% more expensive that going normal. Having a pork product that is healthier and affordable is definitely a win in my mind! And, after having a taste test(over lunch), the yummy taste is a big plus.
After lunch, my friend proceeded with his weekly tutoring of grade 4-6 kids from the community. The kids would pick numbers from a box, which would correspond to a numbered chair, which they would bring to a small classroom. The kids would take their places, and my friend would proceed with an hour tutoring of English and an hour tutoring of Math(facilitated by a French intern).
I was quite overwhelmed watching my friend tutoring the kids – bringing me back to the days when we used to tutor kids during the Tulong Dunong program in High School and AKAY org in College. I saw genuine happiness in the face of my friend as he talk about interrogative pronouns to the kids. I went out of the room to pray, and started to look for a chapel. I was led to a small chapel where I prayed in thanksgiving, and asked Him to show me a way to make more time for what I experienced that day. He revealed to me that I should drop a number of none value adding activities in my life.
After the wonderful prayer time, I made my way back to see the kids making their way back from the room. They were treated to a yummy merienda of Sopas! Amazing how P350 can provide meryenda for 40 kids, 2 tutors, a couple of volunteers and an awed spectator lucky to be there. It was great sharing that meal, their faces beaming with joy as we talked about how they are doing in school, on how they enjoy and look forward to the weekly tutoring, on famous current actors and actresses, on hope and dreams.
I am hooked. I am so excited to be part of this, but at the same time understand the commitment being part of this would entail. More than anything else, volunteering for this means more than giving time, it means giving hope. In my many experience of volunteering, I would almost always find a way to stop once the luster of excitement fades away. Doing that in this case would mean taking away more than time, but taking away hope. It would mean taking away the beautiful smiles I brought with me home that day.
Note: after getting my friend’s approval to post this online, he sent me an email:
“Perhaps our meeting is a manifestation of God’s grace working… serendipitously, i was humbled when i heard the final verses of the gospel today which gives me strength in continuously trying to live God’s will each day, in any way we can:
“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” – Luke 14: 13-14″