GK conference reflects bayanihan spirit, helping poor communities in the Philippines

by Cheryl Piccio, ABS-CBN News

HOUSTON — Speakers and attendees from across the US and Europe gathered in Houston for Gawad Kalinga’s annual US conference and Hope Ball with one purpose: helping the poor in the Philippines.

“The spirit here of the bayanihan, they really capture how to help each other, and how they are working together. They send a lot of visitors to the Philippines as well,” said Louie Cuneta, executive director, GK Global.

In Texas, the chapter serves as a leading organization for Filipino Americans, and is an extension of the Philippine-based non profit’s community development foundation.

Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee even presented the group with a certificate of congressional recognition for its undying commitment to serving the underprivileged.

“Organizations that stand as a strong force against poverty with a commitment to eradicate poverty, is clearly one to be supported,” said Lee.

Gawad Kalingka, also known as GK, aims to end poverty for 5 million families through community development and economic empowerment.

Established in 2003, the foundation has been highly recognized by prestigious award-giving bodies in the Philippines and around the world.

“It is about social enterprises and empowering the communities we work with so that they will be able to sustain what GK has started,” said Rose Cabrera, executive director, GK Nomicks.

Oliver Gibault is based in France and works with GK Europe to engage European students in social work by immersing them in the Philippines leading GK projects.

“This is the idea of GK: to help poor and rich to work together,” said Gibault. “To bridge the west with the east. Asia, with Europe and America. So that we are one single big family.”

Gibault says that training and education provided to the poor helps prepare them for a sustainable future.

“They are learning accounting, finance, marketing, and communications, and product development to become an entrepreneur.”

Recently, the first retail location in the US exclusively selling GK’s personal care and cosmetic line called Human Nature, opened in Houston. The products are created and distributed through GK’s poverty eradication programs to provide income to the poor in the Philippines.

“Especially the poorest of the poor sa Pilipinas na magkaroon ng opportunidad ng ganito ng mag-karoon sila ng trabaho at tsaka mayroon din kaming pinag aaral sa Human Nature,” said Gema Gullaksen, owner, Naturelle Skin Bar. “So in that way, we make sure na matutulungan natin ang nanga-nga-ilangan.”

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