Where goodness grows

GK Poster

Tito Tony likes dropping big numbers in his talks.

As the brochures and press releases show, Gawad Kalinga (GK) aims to end poverty for five million families by the end of 2024. To help reach this goal, GK targets producing 500,000 social entrepreneurs.

These numbers are hard to imagine if our eyes are glued to Facebook newsfeed on what’s going on around the country.

Last weekend, the Ateneo Graduate School of Business Chamber of Commerce (AGSB COC) had its first Startup Business Camp at the GK Enchanted Farm.

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Raf Dionisio of MAD Travel

This gave us the chance to meet and discuss with the people behind the social enterprises Bayani Brew, Calaboo, First Harvest, Free Birds, Friendchips, Golden Duck Eggs, MAD Travel, Oh GK!, Plush & Play, and The Make Peace Bakery. The initial tour around the farm on Saturday was thoughtfully scheduled before our lunch with the GK titas, which had us eating inside the village houses and chatting with the families about their previous and present lives.

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Lunch and feedback session after a walk on the muddy fields

During our entire stay, we were guided by interns and volunteers from France. These include Fabien Courtielle of Plush & Play and Louis Faure, who traded the usual route of HEC Paris students to raise Free Birds’ chickens.

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Tony Meloto with SEED alumni, Danilo and Mice, during the last session 

We chanced upon Tony Meloto (or Tito Tony), father and founder of GK, talking to the scholars of School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED). He remembers the name and background of each scholar.

After all the bad things the students went through before their life in GK, you’d expect them to be angry and vindictive. When asked if he’s angry at his father who abandoned their family, a student said “no, because what he did taught me that I should be a good provider and protector of my family.”

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Oh GK!, a favorite at the taste test night

Forget about charity and your pity purchases, the SEED students are trained to believe that the world doesn’t owe them dole-outs. They know that a good business requires them to improve both their product and their attitude. I talked to Danilo Ablen, the SEED alumnus behind the refreshing and healthy drink, Oh GK!, and he was honest and humble enough to tell me about the needs of his startup endeavor. The brew will soon hit the market and I hope you get to try it.

The scholars of SEED told us this mantra, always sounding like a peptalk to self: “having small pockets does not mean that we have small brains.” Big dreams and big numbers require big efforts. And these students know that.

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AGSB Chamber of Commerce at the field tour

After our stay at the GK Enchanted Farm, I don’t look at five million families out of poverty and 500,000 social entrepreneurs as impossible goals anymore.

***

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A private room at the GK Enchanted Farm

The GK Enchanted farm is open Mondays to Sundays, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you have the time, book one of their business camps or join the Social Good Summit in January 2018. There are also tour packages available. A package with buffet lunch, farm hope tour, and two social enterprise demonstrations costs PhP995. Dorm-type accommodation, private rooms and pool villas may also be rented. You may e-mail info@gkenchantedfarm.com for more information.

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