Sunday, June 1, 2008 [ philstar.com ]
KANSAS CITY – On a road that never seems to end and with only the big sky and the vast open fields around them, Gawad Kalinga (GK) missionaries Dylan Wilk and Nathan Mari patiently take turns driving into the heart of America for hours, inspired by a mission to spread GK to many Filipino-Americans who are still not aware of the movement and encourage them to join the GK1mb or GK 1 million builders in the United States.
The GK1mb is a massive call to volunteerism and advocacy, through the growing work of Ancop USA and in GK villages in the Philippines.
Dylan, accompanied by his wife Ana and their children, eight-month-old Chloe and two-year-old Ariel in the 75-city road trip across the US for 81 days, said their aim is to bring GK to the 4.5 million Filipinos living in the US.
A growing number of Filipino-Americans are now supporting GK and have built their villages in various GK sites all over the Philippines.
To date, there are more than 300 Fil-Am-funded GK villages in different provinces in the country.
To be able to touch and inspire more Fil-Ams to help rebuild their motherland, wipe out the slums and empower the poor, Dylan and Nathan decided to set out on this trip to personally bring the good news of GK and invite Fil-Ams to join GK’s army of volunteers.
The journey, which began in February, ended in May and Dylan said they felt they have accomplished their mission.
Dylan is the British-born millionaire who sold his BMW and donated the proceeds to GK. But GK champion Tony Meloto refused his money, saying that if he really wanted to help the poor, he should stay and spread the mission of GK.
He decided to stay and has since championed the cause of building houses for the poor through GK and has built his own villages in Bulacan, Tarlac, Isabela, Leyte, Negros Occidental and in several towns in Mindanao.
Sowing the seed
After the 75-city road trip, Dylan said they have accomplished the mission of asking people to become builders of the GK movement.
“It will take time for people to fully appreciate and act on it. I think we’ve sown the seed in every place we’ve been to. I see good leaders who were willing to give their lives to GK in the same way caretakers have done for the residents in GK sites. They’ve become our inspiration now. People here in the US are also asked to be caretakers, not caretakers of the poor, but caretakers of Filipino-Americans to bring them back home and help their poor kababayan. This is only the first, and it will take time to grow and change direction,” said Dylan.
Dylan and Nathan’s focus was clear that when they set out on this trip, they were not going to ask for money or donations but would ask their kababayan to be their partners in GK.
“We want partners, we’re not looking for people just to get their money, but we want them to be involved in their village, to love their village, to care about their village, because the work we’re doing is difficult. And it’s only when you love that village that you learn to love the people, you will never give up on them, despite many of the challenges we have in the Philippines in transforming every single GK site,” Dylan explained.
This was the same approach that Meloto used when Dylan was donating his money. Meloto said he wanted Dylan’s involvement in GK more than his money.
Dylan said they want their GK partners in the US to share the good news of GK with other people.
He said “becoming a big mouth to spread GK” was more important than giving or asking for donations.
The trip enabled them talk to volunteers who wanted to do more than just donate.
“And as we’ve come around, that has become very clear, that many people have heard about GK already but didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to get involved. They would just hop to big events, donate, bring a little something then after that, wouldn’t hear from us for a few months. That is why we went to them and explained how they can be a big mouth for GK,” said Dylan.
He said one of their important goals is to be able to make GK a sustained movement in the US, with volunteers and partners meeting every month to discuss ways on how to bring GK to more people.
Joining Dylan on this trip is Nathan Mari, a Filipino who was born and raised in Australia, one of the many second-generation Filipino-Americans raised in foreign lands who did not feel connected to the Philippines. Nathan said that for a long time, he was in denial that he was a Filipino.
Dylan said Nathan has played an important role in changing the mindset of many second-generation Fil-Ams about their Filipino heritage.
He would explain how GK has transformed him and made him love his Filipino heritage.
Dylan shrugged off the sacrifices they made during the three-month, saying that their sacrifices on the road were nothing compared to the sacrifices of the caretakers of GK villages in the Philippines.
“Their sacrifices are our reason and inspiration to continue with this. We have had difficulties as we’ve come along, packing our belongings, sitting in the car for several hours, with two small children, finding ways to entertain them, unpacking things again, but it’s simply an inconvenience. We realize that the sacrifices of the caretakers in the Philippines are far greater,” Dylan said.