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Poverty has been an issue in the Philippines since the country declared independence in 1946. In the Philippines, making less than 10,481 Philippine pesos ($216.02) per month to support a family of five marks the poverty threshold. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, an estimated 102.5 million people lived in the Philippines in 2016. That year, about 24.5% of the population lived in poverty, accounting for approximately 22.5 million people.

However, over the past few years, the percentage of those living in poverty has decreased significantly and continues to decrease. Because of increasing economic opportunities, the population living below the poverty threshold has significantly decreased. According to the World Bank, approximately 20.8% of the population now live below the poverty threshold as of 2019.

Furthermore, numerous nonprofit organizations like Gawad Kalinga continue to help alleviate this continuing economic issue.

What is Gawad Kalinga?

Gawad Kalinga, which translates to “to give care” in English, is a nonprofit organization created in 2003 that aims to end poverty for 5 million families by 2024 through uplifting impoverished communities throughout the Philippines. In the Luzon island group, Gawad Kalinga has helped establish 10,590 barangays (communities) in 33 provinces, 6,214 barangays in 14 provinces in the Visayas region, and 4,671 barangays in 22 provinces in the Mindanao island region.

Among these several thousand barangays, they have over 4,000 ground volunteers. Some of the Filipino programs they started and currently run include SipaG, GK Enchanted Farm, BWI (Barangay Walang Iwanan) and SEED.

SipaG is a youth program that aims to empower Filipino youth by helping them enroll in school, continue their education, secure sustainable livelihoods, participate in social entrepreneurship and achieve their goals and ambitions. Within SipaG, numerous programs and projects target specific social issues regarding Filipino youth. For instance, in war-torn areas in Mindanao, they created SipaG-ASA, which is a program that uses soccer to promote peace between children and parents of rival groups.

Next, GK Enchanted Farm is a former wasteland turned fertile farmland to promote food production and self-sustainability among local farmers. Through the GK Enchanted Farm program, Gawad Kalinga formed partnerships between cassava farmers in Bulacan and the Filipino company Don Benito’s Filipino Delicacies that use the cultivated cassava for their famous cassava cakes. Through this partnership, Gawad Kalinga ensures that farmers are guaranteed purchases and fair wages for their crops. Other partnerships include support for local coffee farmers from several regions like Benguet, Mt. Province, Batangas, Iloilo and Bukidnon.

Next, SEED, or School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development, is a program that aims to educate the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs from impoverished areas to help eradicate poverty for themselves, their families and their communities. With each batch, SEED offers several scholarships to completely fund the education, housing and opportunities for each student during their time with the program. 

Lastly, BWI, or Barangay Walang Iwanan, which translates to “no one left behind nor forgotten,” is a platform that aims to connect communities to resources and opportunities. Through BWI, members of the barangay can find work for several specialties like carpentry, masonry and farming to name a few. Farmers from different barangays in several regions can find trade opportunities with companies to help fund themselves and their communities. Lastly, BWI conducts fundraisers for specific barangay throughout the Philippines, ranging from securing meals for children in several areas to raising money for transportation services for agricultural products. 

UFFSA presents Gawad Kalinga Month

Every year, the University of Florida Filipino Student Association’s Philanthropy team organizes Gawad Kalinga Month, a series of major events and mini fundraisers that raises money for Gawad Kalinga.

This year, the theme for FSA’s Gawad Kalinga Month is “bayani,” which translates to “hero” in English. However, in Tagalog, bayani holds a deeper meaning than its English translation. Bayani originates from the word “bayan,” which translates to “a nation.” In this context, the word bayani defines someone who works toward the greater good for their nation and community. Therefore, with this ongoing Gawad Kalinga Month, we hope to bring out the bayani in all of us and give back to the country that many of us and our families call home.

Due to the pandemic, FSA shifted Gawad Kalinga Month to a mostly virtual format for its major events followed by socially distanced in-person events. Here are some of this year’s main events you can still attend: 

Food fundraiser on March 15

For their food fundraiser, where all proceeds go towards Gawad Kalinga, UFFSA will be selling 30-ounce Filipino Spaghetti along with ube crinkle cookies, both of which can be purchased as a bundle or separately.

Boba/restaurant fundraiser on March 24

This year, UFFSA will be partnering with Frosty Fox for their boba fundraiser. On March 24, if you mention “Filipino Student Association” at the register, Frosty Fox will give 15% of the proceeds from your purchase to Gawad Kalinga.

Benefit concert on March 26

To end Gawad Kalinga Month, UFFSA will be hosting a virtual benefit concert over Zoom to showcase participants’ various talents and exciting acts.

Along with its main events, FSA is hosting numerous side fundraisers like sticker and merchandise fundraisers, as well as month-long Instagram donation boards, where members of UFFSA’s E-board and We-board will participate in dares submitted by donors. For more information, check out UFFSA on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated.

Maddy Gastador is a first-year chemistry major and Spanish minor at the University of Florida. Whenever she's not writing, you can catch her binge-watching Netflix, baking cookies, painting, attempting to be a plant mom, or obsessing over BTS. You can get to know her more through Instagram @mxdeleine.c
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