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US group embraces GK vision

By Patricia Esteves
Monday, July 21, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

Gawad Kalinga’s commitment and vision to uplift the lives of the poor continues to transcend faith, creed, background and wealth, as it inspires an outpouring of support from different Catholic organizations and Filipinos abroad.

One of them is the Bukas Loob sa Diyos (BLD), a Catholic organization with members all over the world, that has made GK a part of its ministry and poverty alleviation program.

“Because helping the poor knows no boundaries — in creed, faith, background or wealth, the BLD found a common goal and has embraced the vision of GK in giving dignity and hope to the poor and homeless,” said Richard de la Fuente, BLD executive in the Newark-New Jersey district.

The BLD shares GK’s passion in helping the poor, following the teachings of Christ to “live out their faith, put love into action and feed the hungry.”

While BLD members in the US are helping build GK villages in the Philippines, BLD members here have pledged to live with the poor as caretaker teams to lessen the burden of local CFC caretakers in various GK villages.

The BLD-GK partnership started four years ago when Fr. Paul J. Lehman, the spiritual director of BLD Newark and New Jersey district refused a big banquet for his sacerdotal 50th anniversary and instead wanted the funds be donated to GK for a village for the poor in Cabiao.

Fr. Paul also encouraged BLD members in the US to get involved with GK.

He came to know GK and was impressed about the transformation that was happening to the beneficiaries.

Dr. Cirilo “Bong” Encarnacion, one of the BLD execs in the Newark-New Jersey district was intrigued over what has gotten over Fr. Paul to passionately pursue building a GK village.

“We went to the GK presentation and we understood why and everybody got involved,” Encarnacion said.

Soon after, the BLD Newark and CFC Ancop Northeast collaborated to build the first BLD-GK village, the Fr. Paul Lehman Village in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.

Since then the partnership has grown and today there are 17 GK-BLD villages already.

These are the Fr. Paul Lehman Village and UST Medical Class of 1976 Village; Mauban- BLD Trenton Village and Tropical Hut Village; San Ildefonso – BLD Long Island village; Seruma- St. James Village; Barotac-Viejo –St. Christopher Village; Naga- St. Mary’s Village; Camp Aquino- Kawal Kalinga; Talao-Talao – Village of the Angels. BLD-GK has also built homes in Hapay-na-Mangga, Marinduque and UP Los Baños.

BLD will soon construct a BLD-GK Village in Sun Valley, Parañaque.

Sceptical

Encarnacion admitted being sceptical at first when he first heard about GK because he thought everything that they contribute for the good of their countrymen would be for naught.

“I was sceptical because nothing good has ever come out of the Philippines. I was one of those who bash the Philippines. Actually, I have talked to someone and he said the only way for the Philippines to get better is to build a new race,” said Encarnacion who has been staying in the US for more than a decade now.

“I have guarded optimism about GK, but I went ahead,” he added.

As he learned more about GK, he got convinced that GK was a holistic solution to solve the poverty in the country because of its youth and child development, Christian values and livelihood and pre-school education programs.

“I love its holistic approach, it is not just a housing project, what GK does is to transform residents. Those who have vices are given Christian life values through the Christian Life program. There are livelihood projects, a preschool for the children of the beneficiaries and a youth development program. I saw the transformation and along the way, I got convinced this is the way to go. GK is a good vehicle,” said Encarnacion.

He was also pleased that many politicians are now part of GK and are doing their share to alleviate poverty in the Philippines through GK.

“I realized that GK is the real deal, may pag-asa sa ating bayan. We just hope that we can continue the movement of change with the help of expats and will involve all Filipinos, we should bring it out and let everyone know the miracle of GK that is transforming the Filipinos,” Encarnacion said.

Dela Fuente, for his part, said supporting GK is truly liberating the poor from the clutches of poverty.

“As a community we have to be engaged in a mission, sharing in the work of Jesus Christ to the poor. I realized that the reason why am I disciple is so that that I can serve the poor people,” said De la Fuente, who was born and raised in the Philippines but migrated to the US since the early 1990s.

Leo Alquiros, another BLD member based in New Jersey said he totally believed in the GK cause the first time he saw the presentation about it in 2005.

Moved by its noble cause, Alquiros pledged 30 homes for the poor in Quezon.

To complete his village, he with BLD and CFC-Ancop Northeast members held fund-raising projects like dinner dance and concerts for the completion of the BLD villages.

He never felt so fulfilled in his life, knowing that he was given an opportunity to give back and share his blessings to the poor.

Leo said he went through a lot of struggles when he first came to America to seek greener pastures but through the grace of God, his eatery and catering business, Tropical Hut Island grill and foodmart, took off and is now one of the successful Filipino businesses in New Jersey.

He also believes that GK is a perfect vehicle to build and unite the Philippines.

“GK not only provide shelter for the poor, but also to assist them in building a self-sustaining socio-economic community in their villages. It is one of the most successful and innovative ventures on nation building because it taps the beautiful values of bayanihan and pakikisama,” Leo said.

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