This talk was given by Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, during the Solidarity Assembly to SEED* students, interns and social entrepreneurs at the GK Enchanted Farm last Monday, October 24, after his arrival from his latest Tour de France (twenty universities, the Opening Plenary in Strasbourg and Closing Plenary with Muhammad Yunus at Grenoble of the World Forum for Responsible Economy).
*SEED is the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan: This is where young social entrepreneurs from the ground, from public schools, will emerge with love of country and fellow Filipino poor, raising many from poverty through social enterprise that does not leave the poor behind.
The Solidarity Assembly is a two hour session held every Monday at the Hyundai Center to instill the values of ethical leadership, positive social disruption, radical optimism, collective excellence, shared prosperity and courageous living.
I was almost in tears as I watched 600 hundred delegates at the World Forum for Responsible Economy in Grenoble, France rise from their seats to give a rousing ovation to Vincent Tatel, an 18 year old son of a former squatter( his words) and garbage collector from a remote rural town in the Philippines – Angat, Bulacan – who spoke passionately and humbly about his dream as a Social Entrepreneur of ending poverty for himself, his family and his country. The usually staid crowd of French intellectuals and entrepreneurs were astounded by the audacity of one so poor of means but so big of dreams. A sharp contrast to many today in affluent circumstances with big means but small dreams.
Vincent spoke simply about ordinary people in Gawad Kalinga(GK) who taught his family to dream and helped them build it. Now they live in a decent home, his parents have work – father is a vermiculturist and mother is part of the housekeeping team at the GK Enchanted Farm, and his two siblings are about to finish high school. He himself is on his Gap Year incubating his social enterprise on free ranged chicken with a French partner, Louis Faure, after a two year course at the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development( SEED Philippines). Parisian Louis, who is finishing his Masters in Business at top French University, HEC, gave his own inspiring testimony about his bold move to set up his big dream in the Philippines with a young partner from the bottom of the pyramid, Vincent, who did not give up on his dream when half of his batchmates in SEED dropped out and allowed their dreams to die.
Louis is moving back to the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan after his graduation in January next year with a clear vision of raising millions of healthy chickens to help create prosperity for small scale farmers in the Philippines.
The rest of our GK/HN team, Camille Meloto of Human Nature and Fabien Courteille of Plush and Play, got their share of accolades. They were given another standing ovation at the finale of the World Forum, right after Muhammad Yunus was honored on the tenth anniversary of his winning the Nobel Prize.
It was perfect timing for Camille as she received the announcement earlier that day that Human Nature is one of the three finalists ( together with long established brands Weleda and Givaudan) in the Global Award for Sustainable Beauty Brand Pioneer in Paris on October 24.
When it rains it pours on those who do not give up on the poor.
Tour de Force
The GK/HN team kept moving audiences throughout the rest of our Tour de France of twenty universities in twelve exhilarating days. It is just proof of concept that those with Big Dreams will rock the world.
But it takes Big Faith in ourselves to do it.
And the Big Solidarity to set the Philippines free from poverty by creating shared prosperity. Rich and poor, top and bottom, men and women, urban and rural, local and international creating inclusive wealth together. This is the miracle of Gawad Kalinga – bringing people together to restore our shared humanity.
Just like Human Nature.
This fast rising natural cosmetic global brand and social enterprise from the Philippines, came from the rib of GK. It's showing the power of Enlightened Business to make the world fairer and safer. It fought against all odds to nurture their dream of creating a world-class brand that was Pro-Philippines, Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment.
Ending poverty for us in the Philippines is like ending racism in America.
Remember Martin Luther King?
Martin Luther King said "I have a Dream" to set black people free, to set America free from hate and prejudice. He marched in the heat, he endured the hate, he persevered in pain. Many Americans, black and white, took courage with him. He was finally killed. But they could not kill his dream. He set America free from hate. At least by law. He ended segregation in schools, buses, restaurants and public places in a country, ironically, that was claiming itself to be the land of the free and teaching the world how to live in democracy.
It was clear to Martin Luther King despite the constant threat of death. He was the only one with the power to kill his dream.
As it is clear to Gawad Kalinga today.
After building 3,000 communities, it continues to move from dangerous conflict zones to destructive calamity areas. The passion will not wane, the Dream will stay alive, stronger than ever. And others will create better design, program and technology to improve it or copy it to make people's lives better.
As typhoon Lawin was ravaging Northern Luzon last week, GK was already mobilizing the ground army for relief and reconstruction and it's global network of partners and donors to prepare the logistical and financial support.
It's Kusina ng Kalinga continues to feed daily 50,000 malnourished children in its massive End Hunger campaign.
There will be less homelessness and hunger as we grow more in love. Hopelessness ends when caring begins.
Back to the Land
Vincent is rejoining you today.
He will be braving sun and storm with you to build this first Farm Village University in the Philippines (perhaps in the world) – building pathways and water pools, planting forage, shoveling chicken shit, enhancing the ecosystem and improving the bio-security to produce healthier food. He will avoid the distraction of the heart ( for girls or boys), learn to be more competent and confident, grow to be more responsible, dependable and accountable for his Dream to fly. For the greater good. And his.
He is back on the ground with greater humility after his glory in France as he was speaking on your behalf and many more who will come after you.
His success to inspire audiences from Paris to Marseille in every University and World Forum that heard him, gave your uniqueness and value to the world as SEED students and also opened a world of opportunities for many of you who will not give up on yourself. Many doors have opened for some of you to go, when you're ready, to HEC, Paul Bocuse, Mark Perot Audencia and many more. Two of you are already on a four year scholarship in top French Business School ESSEC – the first two years in Singapore and the last two in Paris.
How do you keep your Dream alive?
1. Plant the dream early. Make your heart, mind and hands a fertile ground for your dream to grow.
2. Nurture it with Passion daily. Water it with love, fertilize it with faith, sunlight it with hope.
3. Make it your highest Priority. Don't allow trivial and harmful distractions remove your focus from giving your all to your shot for excellence and greatness.
4. Persist in learning new things, doing things better, making things bigger, doing more good, opening new doors, breaking new ground, expanding your borders.
5. Grow Patience in yourself, wait for the flowers to bloom, for the branches to bear fruit. To everything there is a season. Wait for the right time, for the right reason, for the right person.
6. Persevere in doing what is right. Endure the pain. Keep trying, keep fighting. Pick yourself up everytime you fall. Learn from every mistake. Never quit on your dream, never give up on yourself – or your family, your country and the rest of humanity.
Live fully. Love deeply. Enjoy the journey. When your Dream is alive, you are truly alive. Yours will be a future full of hope.