Tony Meloto and Gawad Kalinga: No More Slums!

Tony Meloto (full name Antonio Meloto) is the founder of Gawad-Kalinga (literally means “Give Care”), a non-profit organization that builds houses for poor communities and helps the people to develop livelihood that could help support their lives. Since its founding in 1995, Gawad Kalinga has grown to become an international humanitarian movement dedicated to eradicating poverty and rehabilitating the lives of people from slum areas in the Philippines and now, also in other developing countries.

Tony Meloto
Tony Meloto completed BA in Economics in 1971 from the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City Philippines. The first house ever built by Gawad Kalinga was completed in 1999 by Tony Meloto and other members of the Couples for Christ Community. The house was part of an outreach to troubled youths in a community in Caloocan City.

A total of 2,000 houses was built by Gawad Kalinga in 18 villages in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City. Now, Gawad Kalinga has built 21,759 homes in 1,253 villages all over the Philippines and in parts of Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and other developing countries.

For his amazing work in eradicating poverty, Tony Meloto was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for his work in “inspiring Filipinos to believe with pride that theirs can be a nation without slums.”

Several leadership lessons can be gleaned from Tony Meloto’s life.

Act on your faith.

The Bible says that faith without works is dead. As a member of the Catholic of Couples for Christ, Meloto showed that action is needed to give life to one’s faith. Although, Gawad Kalinga has officially separated from the Couples for Christ umbrella, the non-profit organization continues to subscribe to Christian principles and values in reaching out to the poor and the needy.

Have a heart for the poor.

Mr. Meloto has always had the heart for the poor. When he was younger, he saw the poverty in the lives of his neighbors and some of the people in his province. Too often, people who are blessed with abundance forget about those in need. Sure, it is easy to say that people get what they deserve. But there are social conditions and factors that foster and feed the persistence of poverty. By nurturing a heart for the poor, the “haves” will be able to help the “have nots” improve their lives.

The approach of Gawad Kalinga not the giving of dole outs! This is where a lot of aid and non-profit work go to waste. By simply giving away money, food, or clothes, the recipients become dependent on external sources of empowerment. By building houses and engaging in community development, Gawad Kalinga is able to create sustainable communities in the villages it establishes.

Gather volunteers.

One man can do a lot. But what if a transformational leader like Tony Meloto manages to convince fifty volunteers? The impact would be a hundred times more powerful! His organization thrives on volunteerism—from private individuals, from workers of corporations and multinational companies and from religious groups willing to make a difference. Lots of young people and young professionals get involved with Gawad Kalinga because of its great ideals and what it represents.

To multiply your impact, you will need to gather volunteers who will toil with you and work with you in accomplishing your vision!

Channel donations to good cause.

For a lot of social entrepreneurs, the problem is the lack of funds. While there are a lot of agencies willing to grant startup funds for organizations that seek to eradicate poverty and make the world a better place, some people just need to look at their environment to gather donations.
Meloto appealed to the large communities of overseas Filipino workers. They provided their financial help because they saw the nobility of Gawad Kalinga’s intentions and the results it delivers! That’s important for non-profit organizations, your partners and donors have to see the results in order for them to support you continually!

The Philippines need more Tony Meloto’s! His passion to make a difference is very admirable and it is worth emulating! In a speech to the graduating law students of San Beda College of Law in 2008, he advised them to:

1. Take the high road. Go for integrity and honor above money and power.

2. Serve the greater good. Commit yourself to the bigger collective benefit, not just pursue your limited self-interest.

3. Seek the highest interest of the lowest and the weakest. Serve the poor and you will gain a rich country. Help us liberate the urban poor from the control of squatter syndicates who rent out or sell the rights to private and public land that they do not own.

4. Raise the bar of excellence in public service. Erase the public perception that all politicians in our country are corrupt.

5. Finally, love this country with all your heart and value the privilege of being Filipino. Before you are a lawyer, a judge or a mayor, you are first a Filipino. For you to live in honor, you have to treasure your birthright and to raise the dignity of our people most of whom live without honor because of poverty and corruption.

image credit: Sinaglaya

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About the Author: Mighty Rasing

Mighty is the Philippine staff of Young People's Ministries, the youth ministry agency of the United Methodist Church. He blogs about youth ministry, transformational leadership, social media, a little bit of Ilocano literature, and the occasional rants. The views and opinions posted here is Mighty's own and does not necessarily reflect that of YPM.

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