PILI, Camarines Sur: Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Antonio Meloto vowed to help make Camarines Sur “the Silicon Valley of Social Entrepreneurship” in the country.
Meloto made the promise during the Bicol Social Business Summit held here yesterday. It was attended by local government officials led by Camarines Sur Gov. MigzVillafuerte, representatives of the academe, students and young start-up owners.
Meloto said the GK will replicate in Camarines Sur the farm-village university they first established in the GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan which has become a model for social enterprise and poverty alleviation.
The farm-village university will rise in barangay Bahai, in Libmanan, Camarines Sur where there is already an existing GK Village, one of the 3,000 villages the foundation built all over the country through its “padugo” or “bleeding for a cause” bayanihan building approach.
Meloto said they will introduce a different development model in the envisioned farm-based university.
“Development cannot be attained by charity alone but by empowering the poor whom we could tap as partners and as a rich creative resource capable of changing their lot, the community and the country,” he explained.
To prove his point, Meloto presented Vincent Tapil, an 18-year old entrepreneur and one of the beneficiaries of the farm-university who transformed himself and his family from garbage scavengers to productive citizens.
Tapil said his father now produces vermicompost and his mother works with the GK farm hotel’s housekeeping team; while he himself and a French business partner now raise organically-fed crossbred chickens in between his attendance in classes where they are taught aside from subjects in agriculture, English and French.
These language lessons served Tapil well when he attended the World Economic Forum in France where he was given a standing ovation by his expectedly large French audience who was touched when he shared how he used to steal melons from the Meloto farm out of hunger, and how he now earns a monthly income of PhP25,000 from his own enterprise called Free Birds.
Tapil said there is a way out of poverty. “We just have to love the land and be willing to make our own sacrifice for the country,” he said, adding that “today, is the best time to be a Filipino, to show who we are. We don’t have to go abroad. We just haveto return to the land.”