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PIA Press Release

GK: Stretching arms, treading risk to help poor

By Jean Duron-Abangan

Davao City (15 August) -- Gawad Kalinga is further stretching its arms out to the poor and the homeless from Aparri to Sulu.

It is eyeing to forge stronger links with local government units even in areas which some may look at as forbidden, just to build the dreams for better lives of the poor and the marginalized.

Just recently Richard K. Villanueva, GK regional coordinator for Southeastern Mindanao came to Davao del Norte to address a Monday Convocation and discussed the way GK had touched lives.

Since its launching in 2003, GK has gone on its way to hit its goal of transforming poverty-stricken lives by building 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities by the year 2010 as what internet source says.

Though quite far from target, Villanueva said GK has accomplished 20,000 homes in 1,500 communities.

But it is not losing its sight to help the government bring the country out of poverty.

Villanueva said his organization is looking at striking partnership with LGUs which already have the menu of social services and programs that can be brought down to where they are badly needed.

"We just have to bring them to the ground," he said.

Villanueva has seen opportunities to work together with the provincial government of Davao del Norte whose RDR WHEELS agenda of development opens up programs and projects for the marginalized sector.

"You already have the template; it would not be very hard," he said of the RDR WHEELS which he hoped could become a vehicle to build homes for the poor.

RDR WHEELS stands for Road and Infrastructure services; Development of cooperatives; Reform in governance, peace and order; Water and electricity development; Health and sanitation and social services; Education, culture, sports and human development; Environment protection and rehabilitation; Livelihood skills and development; Spiritual and moral recovery.

During Villanueva's GK presentation, Governor Rodolfo del Rosario confided that GK has awakened his conscience and has desired to include housing project in his development agenda.

GK reminded del Rosario what Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz of the Diocese of Tagum had pointed out in his homily during the recently held Araw ng Davao del Norte when the bishop noted that housing "is the missing element of the RDR WHEELS."

"It is clear to me now. We will include housing in RDR WHEELS," del Rosario said.

What the provincial government has to do is provide a land where homes can be built and GK will bring in the private sector to help build the community together with concerned government agencies.

In a video presentation, GK Chairman Tony Meloto said providing a decent home "is just the beginning of transforming the lives of the poor" and changing their attitudes from "survival to self-sufficiency."

GK is also into efforts of making lives of its beneficiaries more productive because it is looking at "hunger" as more of a problem among the poor than not having a house.

Meloto has seen the importance of a GK community to have "integrated land for farming" so families can grow vegetables to make it basically sufficient and that efforts to lead a good in it would become sustainable.

With all the efforts put into vision and mission, GK and the people behind it, are sharing the same aspiration "to save the poor to secure the future of the children" who would otherwise become victims of circumstances which would eventually lead them to a life in poverty.

Bearing this aspiration, GK is set to tread the risky path to Patikul, Sulu in April next year.

Villanueva said GK will be building 50 to 100 homes in the area where the dreaded Abu Sayyaf rebels are said to be in hiding.

GK will be working with the provincial government of Sulu, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and even with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

But why in Patikul, Sulu? Many asked.

"Because we believe that peace can be brokered through economic development, by helping the poor," Villanueva said. (PIAXI/JMDA) [top]

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