StoriesBack to Stories

Experiencing "Gawad Kalinga" in the Philippines

Gk Ella Karla

YES Abroad students in the Philippines participated in a community service trip in the GK Village in Zambales, Philippines, in cooperation with the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, Inc (GK). “Gawad Kalinga,” translated in English means to “give care,” and is a Philippine-based movement that aims to empower communities and combat poverty. 

With the majority of their exchange experience already behind them, students experienced new perspectives by experiencing life in rural communities that significantly differed from their host communities.

Their experience began with a hike through the mountains in the Zambales province towards the Yangil community, where they learned from the values of the communities. Villagers often traveled long distances with heavy loads on their backs in order to provide food and other goods for their families. Students learned about traditional customs and the local economy by experiencing it firsthand.

The chief showed us a coffee plant given by outsiders as aid to the Yangil village. The plant was leafless and shriveled because it had unknowingly been given in the wrong season. I think this was an excellent metaphor for good intentions that lack an experiential education. It is essential to be educated and immersed before aid can be delivered effectively," Ella T. recalled.

The students spent the remainder of their week volunteering and working with the Gawad Kalinga communities. Students felt that they were welcomed into these communities with open arms, and developed a deeper appreciation for the global community.

“I learned that in order to actually affect poverty, you need to do something about it. By offering stability and chances to work, individuals will be able to live and raise a family on their own. I hope to encourage others to physically do something about affecting poverty in America so we can all live more equally and have the same opportunities,"  Brittany H. reflected.

Although students had already spent a significant amount of time in the Philippines, their experience presented a different outlook compared to their host communities and daily lives in the United States. 

“Through studying abroad in the Philippines, I've realized how much I've taken things for granted back in the United States. I've learned to appreciate everything in the Philippines and to appreciate the people you meet, because we can all impact each other’s lives without realizing it. I've learned to give more and take less,” said Karla V.