Monday, May 02, 2005

A day with GK

GK777 is a non-profit organisation with a dream to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years. The end seems so far, but with lots of people pitching in their own bit of help, the goal is more than attainable.

Labor Day Sunday was spent visiting six different GK777 sites here in Davao City. Today's Nation build was spearheaded by Singles for Christ, Couples for Christ and Gawad Kalinga - none of which I am affiliated with. Proud to say, I just asked a friend if I could volunteer, so I did. Expecting some masonry work and/or painting to be part of the job specs, I was ready to get down and dirty.

It was amazing, six different sites within one city, but six different atmospheres and six different experiences. It was an immersion packed into a day.

The first site was a true site opener - Davao City Jail. The day started with a mass with the inmates, inside the jail premises. Although I am more than sure that there will be no jailbreak within the next 2 hours I will be spending there, you can't help but think that you will be sitting right beside suspected criminals that live in a prison cell. The holding area for visitors provided a clear panorama of what happens in a city jail (which was much smaller than what I had expected): people idling around, people lining up for security check, people carrying tubs of rice for their breakfast, and a cluster of people in a crowded cell peering from the shadows. I think that everyone planning a retreat, or any similar introspective event should visit a jail. It makes you think that these people have nothing to live for, wasting what could be the best years of their lives being watched by guards, within captive walls. While the picture that I paint is no cheerier than a thatched barn in the middle of a storm, the inmates were quite spirited - it was Sunday, and it was a day of celebration.

The next site was called Gravahan, right smack in the middle of downtown Davao City, and beside the Davao River. It was playtime with the kids, they had their presentations, and we toook our pictures. What caught my attention here was that the houses that GK built was adapted to combat the conditions of houses placed near rivers: flood. It was as if the houses were on stilts, like women lifting the skirt when walking across a puddle.

Off to the next area, which was the most famous one: Punta Dumalag. This site was located beside a beautiful white sand (and undeveloped) beach, and was on the news several times for pawikans shoring up every now and then. Since this was the most famous one, it was the most developed, 51 brightly colored, landscaped houses with cobblestone (or something like it) streets leading from the village entrance all the way to the Kalinga center. We arrived just in time for lunch. The residents received the houses without having to spend a single cent, and they are repaying this debt with their hospitality and graciousness. It was a lovely neighborhood, where everybody knew everyone else, even the visitors. They welcomed all the visitors for meals, and a lively chat. Remember that portion of Enchanted Kingdom leading up to Rialto with the Main Street shops and tiled floors? This was a cozy copy of that.

We got lost on the way to the fourth site, called Riverbridge, which was located beside a mine quarry. Blaring loud (Christian) music greeted us, together with kids preparing for a Knock First contest, with their own houses as the specimen. Located on a flat plain, this area seems to be the least visited, due to the inaccessibility, but there were a lot more people hanging out here than the others. I treated myself to some strawberry juice and some fried banana, to which I also served out to the participants, completing my afternoon fare.

My 5th stop was for Sta Marta, up in the mountains of Catalunan Grande. Here I got to participate with actual house building. Well, it more like soil compacting, since there weren't much equipment on hand. A happy reunion with friends I met at the jail (not the inmates, but other fellow volunteers), and a couple of sentences, I managed to commit visiting another site. Not that I'm complaining.

The last site was beside rice paddies in Calinan. It was the day's worst road conditions, but since it was the last for the day, I was more than convinced to finish the trip. We arrived at the area, with everyone finished and packed (their service jeep arrived 3 seconds after I did), there wasn't much to do. A quick inspection of the facilities, a well-filled classroom and clean water supply for everyone, the first GK site in Davao City was a sustainable community that is a testament of the organisation's mission.

It was the most different day I had ever had - rice paddies, a mountain quarry, a riverside, a mountain field, a beachfront, and a jail in one day. And the diversity beginsd there, a lot of people, much more so their background, working towards a common goal. Giving a house to these people is so much more than giving them a house. This gives them hope, a second chance to turn their lives around, or maybe begin it. I'm glad I volunteered for this.

2 talkbacks:

hellgod said...

astig, pano ba sumali sa gawad kalinga? astig eh... saludo ako sa founder ng org na yan, i read sa paper na the founder is a british millionaire, one of the youngest millionaires in the uk yata... pero he chse to give up that life in the uk to help people here...

monsterboy said...

i don't know how. i just told a friend of mine, then pinasamahan nya lang ako sa member. galing talaga ng vision ng GK.