70 percent of the Filipino population is classified as landless, and 26 million people have only makeshift dwellings in informal urban settlements. Top-down government interventions, such as land redistribution, have failed to significantly improve living conditions..
The social entrepreneur: Starting from humble beginnings, Tony Meloto was an outstanding scholar who gained financial and professional success. Still, he was driven to understand how poverty had been institutionalized in his country, and began working with young gang members in one of Manila’s most dangerous slums. Through this work he came to know a fellow volunteer, Jose Luis Oquiñena, and together they crafted the vision of Gawad Kalinga, an organization whose name means “to give care” and whose development approach engages all sectors of society to end poverty, starting with housing, then adding education and livelihoods. The model emphasizes values shared by individuals and communities, and views poverty as not merely the absence of money, but the lack of community and sense of higher purpose. “Slum environments breed slum behavior” is a motto, emphasizing the importance of both physical and spiritual transformation. GK coordinates as corporate partners donate materials and employee time; local governments invest in infrastructure; owners get tax credits for donating lands; and volunteers provide sweat equity. At the time of the Award, 2,000 GK villages with 60,000 families had engaged in the transformative process. Tony ranked as the fourth most trusted person in the Philippines.
Quote: “I value the freedom to serve more than the power to rule.” (Tony)
“When we started, we dreamt that every Filipino family would have its own land and its own house. Now thousands are beginning to aspire that we can become a great nation and a great people.” (Jose Luis)
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2011:
- Expansion to Cambodia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.
- Inspired the Philippines’ 2012 Kalinga Bills, also called “Volunteers for Nation Building” to institutionalize public, private, and civil sector partnerships as part of the government poverty eradication plan.
- Coordinated relief and rebuilding efforts after Typhoons Sendong (2012) and Hayan/Yolanda (2013), building 3,000 houses and mobilizing 1.7 million volunteers.
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