Friday, June 25, 2010

Take a step back, there's a bigger picture

What is Gawad Kalinga?
"It's this organization that builds homes for the poor."

"It's this organization that coordinates volunteer activities in Manila."

What is Youth Trip?
"It's this NGO that organizes fun talks and trips around the country."

 True. Those are all true. But a little bit nearsighted.

Though there is nothing wrong with building homes for the poor, or coordinating volunteer activities, or promoting local tourism, there is much that is lost when your view of these organizations is limited to that.

When it comes to nonprofit organizations, I always like to take a step back and appreciate the bigger picture -- if there is one.  Look into their rationale for being, and their formula for change. This, in my opinion, is what separates the project-oriented groups from the ones that have the potential to create a lasting difference and a movement that goes beyond mere projects.

GK is actually more than just about building homes for the poor. Eradicating shanties and slums is just a means to a bigger end -- nation building: a new generation of Filipinos who are empowered, patriotic, and living full lives with human dignity. It has a simple theory for change: take the person out of the slums, and you will take the slum dweller mentality out of the person. Put him in a decent home, placed within an empowered and involved community - and you have a new kind of Pinoy. One that is empowered by a new-found confidence in himself, one with genuine concern for his community, and a fiery passion for his country. And that is how Gawad Kalinga is changing the nation. Not just building homes, but building a new nation, one citizen at a time.

At the heart of Hands On Manila is the belief that volunteerism not only changes the conditions of the beneficiaries, but that more importantly, it changes the lives of the volunteers themselves - awakening in them a sense of good citizenship. And who needs this awakening more than the busy professionals who are all about work work work? Thus, the flexibility model of volunteer service. HOM makes it so easy to volunteer, "I'm too busy" is no longer a valid excuse. These professionals go through a volunteer experience with HOM, and the next time they find themselves back in that chronic overtime mode, suddenly they start asking themselves - "Is this really what I want to be doing with most of my time?"

YTRIP (Youth Tourism Response in the Philippines) is about travel, and adventure, and encouraging youth to go out and explore their Philippine backyard. But if you ask the people who set it up -- they will tell you that the journey that matters most is not the many provinces you visit, but it's the one that you take within yourself. It's the journey of reflection and realization, of knowing yourself, and eventually knowing what it means to be Filipino. With each new trip, you experience the beauty, the hospitality and the adventure that is the Philippines, and you come back seeing this country with a new set of eyes. That is what YTRIP is really about. As they beautifully put it - "Sa amin, ang pagkilala sa sarili ay kasabay sa pagkilala sa bayan, ang Pilipinas."

So, you can see it as mere traveling. Mere volunteering to paint a mural for a couple of hours. Mere laying of bricks and mixing cement.

Or you can take a step back and see that it is about connecting with the Filipino that is within. Awakening your concern for your fellow Pinoy. And empowering a whole new generation of patriots.

I've always preferred the latter :-) 

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