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Challenge the Impossible
[Date Created: July 19, 2012]

by Gia Leanne Luga

“You have an intelligent heart, and that’s why you are able to do the impossible.” These are the words of Tony Meloto as he addressed the crowd of leaders and game-changers during the Metro Manila Leaders’ Conference last May 12, 2012. He shared the story of Gawad Kalinga as a story of challenging the impossible, and this story started many years ago when a few people chose to see poverty differently. “We did not see the ugliness and the filth. We saw the beautiful community and the good citizens that they could be.” Gawad Kalinga’s mission is to end poverty for 5 million Filipino families by 2024. GK has gone a long way, but when it was first instituted, Tito Tony says “We didn’t fully understand where we were going. We just knew that something was wrong with the world we lived in.”

>>> Learn more about Gawad Kalinga's history

>>> Learn more about how Gawad Kalinga sees poverty

Prosperity for All

To date, Gawad Kalinga has helped restore the dignity and rebuild the lives of over 2,000 communities around the Philippines. But the challenge only gets bigger as the years go by, and this year we face an even bigger challenge as we move on to the next phase of the GK 2024 Roadmap – Social Artistry. This is no longer just about building communities, this is about creating wealth and prosperity for all by bringing out the best in the least. Tito Tony says “We’re designing a new economy – enlightened capitalism – capitalism that is not fueled by unbridled greed. We do not want to be a part of the old system of greed that caused so much poverty and human misery. We want the next generation of Filipinos to be wealth generators of this country and not job seekers abroad.”

>>> Learn more about the GK 2024 Roadmap to ending poverty

Tito Tony talks about creating prosperity for all with the French interns behind him

As emerging Asian countries begin to rise, all eyes are on the Philippines and its potential to be great. Even the best students from all over the world are coming in because they believe in Gawad Kalinga’s global template for ending poverty. This year, we are expecting hundreds of French interns to work with the social entrepreneurs in the GK Enchanted Farm. A few of them joined us for the Leaders’ Conference and expressed their thoughts about the work of GK. “It’s unbelievable what Gawad Kalinga is trying to do here. There’s so much optimism and hope that we cannot find in Europe anymore,” says Nicolas Durand, one of the French interns.

>>> Read about one intern's journey in "An Enchanted Gap Year Experience"

>>> Find out more about being an intern for Gawad Kalinga

Growing an Already Great Work

The Gawad Kalinga family joins hands as one team during the Unity Dance

GK Executive Director Luis Oquinena was also there to speak about how we can challenge the impossible and build towards the next stage of GK. Gawad Kalinga is already big, but we need to remind ourselves that we are looking at 5 million families here. Thus, we need to look at more opportunities to grow. From communities, we need to empower hometowns. We need to bring the GK way to the different local government units, multi-sectoral partners and the rest of the Philippines. “If we want to challenge the impossible, we should have the strength to act as a people.”

Lifebank Foundation, one of GK’s Mission Partners, was also there to share how the GK-LBF partnership is growing the already great work of Gawad Kalinga. LBF President Manny Perlas says that “This has become an awakening at another level. This is not just microfinance. This is poverty reduction… And for poverty reduction to happen, you do not use money. You use values and human dignity.” He continues by saying “We go down to the bottom line of our journey. It is the journey of caring and sharing. Because if we empower people without caring and sharing, if we empower people without values, we might create a very different force. Let us not mistake power as money, fame, territory. The authentic power is in caring and sharing and in doing God’s work on earth.”

Luis Oquinena speaks about challenging the impossible;

LBF President Manny Perlas addresses the crowd

Answering the Call

Challenging the impossible is also about answering the call. The breakout sessions and workshops in the afternoon cemented the roles and accountabilities of each leader and how they should answer the call to bring the work of GK to the next level.

After the workshops, Jay Meloto, Area Coordinator of NCR-2 and son of Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, shared his story about answering the call. “I am not a visionary who will dream and start a movement, but I will continue and finish what he started.” Jay encouraged over 600 GK Heads, GK Management Teams, GK Area Coordination Teams, Kapitbahayan leaders, Siga presidents, partners, workers and volunteers by saying that we need to treat the work personally and work together as one family who knows each other by name. The challenge may be huge, but it’s not impossible if we work together. “Identify the challenges that we face and focus on one challenge, one at a time.”

The GK Heads of NCR (L-R: Noli Puig of Metro Rizal, Jun Miranda of Rizal, Jun Valbuena of Valenzuela, Emil Virtudes of Las Pinas, Jun Palma of Quezon City, Jim Bartolome of Caloocan, Francis Balagtas of Paranaque-Muntinlupa, Rey Gajo of Pasig-Pateros, Nestle Jeturian of Taguig);

NCR-2 Area Coordinator Jay Meloto challenges everyone to answer the call

To wrap up the Leaders’ Conference, the GK Heads of NCR shared how they will be challenging the impossible in their respective areas. Nestle Jeturian, the new GK Head of Taguig, shares his journey of “saying yes” to all the positions and responsibilities that have been thrown his way, as well as how answering those calls and accepting those challenges have led to miracles in his life. Just say yes, because we do not make the poor wait. Just say yes, because if we anchor ourselves on God, nothing is impossible. “Just give your availability, and the Lord will give you the ability and the means to carry out his work.”


The GK Leaders Conference is a gathering of GK Leaders held during the 2nd quarter of the year to share victories, pass on best practices, consolidate learnings and strengthen the plans for the months ahead. The Southern Luzon Leaders Conference is just one of the five conferences that were held around the country. To read about the other areas, click on the following links:

* May 20 - Mindanao

* May 27 - Visayas

* June 16 - Southern Luzon
* June 17 - North and Central Luzon

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