29 years
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News and Views of the
Filipino Community Worldwide
Jottings from a life-changing adventure…

Linda Esguerra
Wed 9th February 2011

Young Once Great Adventure Tour (YoGAT) left from Australia to Manila on the 23rd  of October 2010, for a 10-day Odyssey in Gawad Kalinga (GK), meaning “giving care” – the answer to eradicating poverty through its holistic approach on housing, education, health, livelihood and the environment.

Gawad Kalinga is the recipient of the prestigious 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award – Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize - for its sustainable program and service to the community. GK attracts support from overseas Filipinos, multinational corporations, private donors, government agencies and members of the diplomatic corps in the Philippines.

       Australian donors to GK take pride in being able to support 29 GK Villages in the Philippines, 1 in Papua New Guinea, and starting 1 in Cambodia. Australian donors send more than 500 students in different age groups, attending different schools in the Philippines and PNG. Australia’s build and immersion programs for young adults – Youth Great Adventure Tour (YGAT), as well as those not-so-young – Young Once Great Adventure tour (YoGAT) have been adopted as a global template for promoting hands-on experience in this life-changing journey.

       Propelled by our common bond of helping the poorest of the poor, led by Rockhampton Regional Council Deputy Mayor Rose Swadling; Remy Conway, Vice President of the Central Queensland Filipino Australian Association; Matthew, Cathy and Samara Jarvie, active members of All Saints in Brisbane; and myself, a Gawad Kalinga Volunteer Worker, we trekked to the inner sanctum of Gawad Kalinga Villages in the Philippines where we were looking forward to immerse ourselves into the day-to-day lives of GK’s beneficiaries.

Among the highlights of our 10-day odyssey are:

Participating in the build program of three GK villages in Metro Manila; inspecting a water purification program in a newly opened GK Village in the hinterland of Southern Luzon; engaging young people and participating in their fellowship programs; conducting a feeding program for street kids; getting enthralled by the genius of the villagers’ livelihood program, utilising recycled materials and textile remnants; being gab smacked by stories of the living conditions they have to endure prior to their lives in the GK community; having an off-the-cuff discussion with the Australian Ambassador, Rod Smith; holding in our arms the wards of St. Rita Orphanage; and most of all, being impressed by the children’s scholastic standing and their determination to continue attending school, despite the lack of transport facilities and/or school supplies. Some have to walk everyday, down and up hill for almost an hour each way to get to their schools!

Of course, we had very little knowledge about Gawad  Kalinga’s work with the poor, when we embarked on this journey. This was rectified quickly by being there - in the actual scene of this magical world! The happy faces that greeted us on the first leg of our tour were enough to wipe out whatever anxiety we had about GK. Pretty soon we were picking up our roller brushes and enthusiastically joining the other volunteers! Then, we automatically picked up hollow blocks like experienced brickies, took a spade in our hands to mix the cement and off we went!  Our toil was punctuated by cheerful banters with very patient and experienced tradesmen, skilful volunteer neighbours and fully energised kids. Members of the caretaker team supplied us with stories of how a bunch of motivated visionaries worked with the beneficiaries in the first GK Village, Bagong Silang - the former hub of lawless residents. To date, there are over a thousand GK homes in Bagong Silang, which now boasts of zero crime and 100 percent attendance by the children in various schools. Australian donors are currently sending more than 200 students from this GK Village.

We all took these in total awe – the sense of community, the spirit of hope, the never-ending expression of gratitude, the zeal and energy of youth, the re-captured self-confidence, and most of all, a stronger faith in God. 

And for someone who had ‘changed’ her allegiance from the Pearl of the Orient called the Philippines, in search of better opportunities in Australia - the Lucky Country, I found it a very humbling and rewarding experience to be able to give back and share my bounty with those unfortunate members of society in my Motherland. 



LINDA ESGUERRA  Email: lindae1988@yahoo.com.au


About the Author:

"Linda Esguerra hails from Bicol in the Philippines, and migrated to Australia in 1989 after completing her assignment as Pavilion Manager at the Philippine Pavilion during EXPO 88 in Brisbane, Australia. She served in the Cory Administration as Assistant to the Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr. Jose Concepcion, Jr.

Linda lives in Rockhampton, Queensland, where she works full time as Administrative Officer at the Old Supreme Court Chambers. She also volunteers in various community activities, namely, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Community Radio, Central Queensland Filipino-Australian Association, Crime Stoppers, and Friends of Murri Wodja (an Aboriginal term for Spiritual Gathering). She takes pride in her role as member of the Board of Gawad Kalinga Australia in charge of the Young Once Great Adventure Tour, a yearly event focused on bringing Australian Donors to Gawad Kalinga Villages, to give them an opportunity to witness the miracle of nation building.

In 2010, Linda received the International Harmony Day Individual Achievement Award for her community service and volunteer activities."

    Write a Comment
    Wed 23rd March 2011
    kanino po dapat lumapit sa problema namin tungkol sa pabahay n proyekto ng GK at sponsored ng SGV ksi po ang alam po namin ang pabahay ay para sa mahirap humihingi po kami ng payo importante lang po
    concern citizen
    Wed 23rd March 2011
    ang ganda ng plakad nyo d tulad sa camarin mgulo sna maayos n
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