These students are part of Gawad Kalinga's SEED program. They are public school students who have been selected to participate in the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development at the GK Enchanted Farm. They are scholarship recipients who study a specific program to assist their development as bright and innovative social entrepreneurs. The GK values of integrity, servanthood, padugo, stewardship and solidarity underpin their study. These values ensure they understand their commitment to their country and the Filipino people, ensuring 'walang iwanan' (nobody is left behind).
Although each student's story carried a theme of hardship, poverty and challenge, the overwhelming emphasis of their conversation was not one of struggle. Instead, I heard gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the SEED program, enthusiasm for their study and optimism for the future. I witnessed a strong camaraderie amongst the group, a healthy respect for their teachers and a vibrant energy. Their immersion into the world of GK and the influence of Tito Tony Meloto was evident. The GK vision, values and tenets that Tito Tony espouses were not only clearly apparent in their conversations and responses but also in their dress, their grooming and their mannerisms.
The students proudly showed me their classrooms and explained that the open louvre windows were symbolic of their open mindsets. They explained both their educational program and the guidelines for their involvement in the SEED program. Talking with them was so refreshing; their joy and enthusiasm was infectious. These were students who were most definitely embracing life; showing tenacity and resilience when challenged and making the most of the opportunities given to them.
I felt honoured to share this tiny glimpse into their lives and I thank the students sincerely for their hospitality and their honest reflections. Commendations and congratulations to Tito Tony and GK staff whose vision and insight has inspired this program and to those who are working as teachers and mentors. Although it is still early days, it is apparent that these students have already gained greatly from their involvement in GK and the SEED program. I have no doubt that they will make the most positive of contributions in fulfilling GK's vision of ending poverty in this most beautiful country.
Click here to read more about Gawad Kalinga and the ways you can help end poverty in the Philippines.