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Enchanted trip to a better future

Ronalyn Briones | September 28, 2018

We do not have to go far to realize that poverty is all around us. Whenever we see an example, it is easy to feel pity and sympathy for those whose plight we wouldn’t wish for ourselves or anyone. Some of us go as far as empathizing with them — feeling their pain as if it were our own. But it’s always the answer to the question, “what do we do from here?”, that sets one apart.

There are those who think poverty can be eradicated by giving the poor what they need. So they give them money, food, homes, and schools, among others. But, sadly, their concept of serving stops there. While dole outs could temporarily address the urgent needs of the poor, they are not sustainable and could, at times, make things worse.

In Aboitiz, we always seek better ways to co-create communities that are safe, empowered, and sustainable. And as a community relations specialist in one of its business units, I take it as a challenge to ensure that our own host communities feel that they are a major part of this aspiration. Activities after activities and I still ask myself, “Are we nearing our goal? Are we really making a difference?” But it is these questions that always drive me to try harder not only for myself but for the host communities we live with. To leave our communities better than we found them — for me, there is no better and more compassionate way of driving change for a better world than this.

It is this “baon” that I bring with me whenever I go out to attend immersions and seminars. I always look for best practices, which may be implemented when I go back home. This is the reason why I was so excited when Aboitiz Foundation announced that it included an immersion activity as part of the Aboitiz ABC Summit 2018.

I’ve known about some of Gawad Kalinga’s programs since I was in high school. I remember volunteering a few times in painting some of the houses they built. But it was my first time to hear about GK Enchanted Farm and what it does to help alleviate poverty. And surprised I was.

I was sleepy when we got to the site but was instantly awakened by the beauty of the place. The place was relaxing and yet it invites one to start moving. And when the kids — no, young entrepreneurs, started talking, I was convinced that this place was indeed magical. It is slowly changing not only the lives of its students but also the communities where they belong to. You give the poor an opportunity to change their lives and that of their neighbors and they will gladly welcome it.

And these youth, they dream big dreams. I couldn’t forget the sparks in their eyes as they talk about how they plan to change the poor mindset of other people and how they are going to invite them to be part of the change they are envisioning. They knew it would not be easy and it would take time, but the day they said yes to the program was also the day they vowed to be part of the solution in addressing poverty.

The planned tour around the farm was a memorable one. Every step taken was a step towards understanding human compassion — of how the vision and action of the farm’s founders led to a community of equally compassionate individuals, whose social enterprises not only benefit their own families and the program itself but as well as that of the communities where they operate.

I loved the intricate details of how each enterprise came to life. My favorite was the silk-weaving. It entails a long process of waiting for the silkworms to build a cocoon, to convert them into a thread, and to finally weave them into beautiful fabrics. For me, this is a metaphor for the transformation one has to go through to get out of poverty.

This trip is a beautiful reminder to us development practitioners that even little things matter. To advance both business and communities can be frustrating at times but if we cling tighter to our mission, we would remain grounded and motivated.

Compassion entails action. And I am glad that I am reminded that just like in the GK Enchanted Farm, we in Aboitiz practice it every day. We are creating different versions of enchanted farms in our own host communities, magically transforming them by working together for a shared mission: creating boundless societies where a person’s actions create a ripple of beautiful change to our communities.

Indeed, ending poverty is a commitment to act and take part in this mission that makes all the difference. One person, one community at a time.