Monday, December 8, 2014

The Genius of the Poor by Thomas Graham Book Launch

Wazzup Pilipinas!

"Dear Ross. Thank you so much for coming! I truly believe that the Philippines will rise through the GK spirit." - Thomas Graham
That was the dedication written by the author when he signed the book he gave me during the book launch. It is a great motivation when people other than you believe that your country can still rise amidst the dilemma it has seemingly forever sunk into. It is a much stronger inspiration when foreigners are the ones who try to give you hope. 

The Genius of the Poor book written by Thomas Graham was recently launched last November 29, 2014 at the Fully Booked book store branch in High Street, Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

The book is a heartfelt and often numerous account of Thomas Graham's life-changing journey in the Philippines. Whether in prisons, conflict areas, or dangerous slums, Thomas became inspired by countless heroes that share one common dream - to build a nation in which no Filipino is ever again left behind. This tells the story of how Gawad Kalinga is rousing a remarkable nation to overcome the poverty in its midst.

With a fervent desire to find the answer to the question why poverty remained so high in the Philippines, Thomas entered the world of the poor to find solutions together with the people of Gawad Kalinga.

Following a serendipitous encounter with Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, a confused British journalist going through an early mid-life crisis ditched the shirt and tie and instead discovered for himself the genius of the poor. He quit his job, moved out of his high-rise Maniola apartment, and set out on a journey that took him across great lengths and breadths of the islands.

Along the way, he ignored the warnings of his embassy and headed into conflict areas sporting only a Gawad Kalinga shirt for protection, befriended former gang leaders, and briefly lost his father during a visit to a prison.

Wherever he went, he uncovered remarkable tales of resilience, hope and transformation which taught him more insights and life lessons in a twelve-month journey than all his education back home has achieved.

Most importantly, he learned that Tony Meloto's contention was true; a country like the Philippines, blessed with such abundant resources and talented people, really does have no excuse to be poor.

Gawad Kalinga is a global movement that builds integrated, holistic and sustainable communities in slum areas. It is something worth looking into by other countries to learn from and adapt for their own benefit. I've been to some of their communities during a fam tour and mingled with the residents. They even allowed us to paint some of their walls. I've also visited their store along Commonwealth and their Enchanted Farm in Bulacan which is truly an impressive sight. At the farm, they taught us how to prepare "kesong puti," golden salted eggs, and allowed us to try planting in their vegetable gardens.

The book also contains stories where Bert and Ivy are the stars. We should read it to discover their participation in the book.

Indeed, to the eyes of most foreigners, what Tony Meloto and his group have done and continuously doing should be recognized by all as worth emulating and deserving of praise. The GK model has inspired many others to do the same thus it has been adopted  in other developing countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

We should all aim to end poverty and it starts by restoring the dignity of the poor.

Thank you for people like Thomas Graham who took the effort to write about his experience so he can share it to the world. I also believe that there is still hope for the Philippines if only everyone will keep the perseverance and work on their ass in a lot smarter way than just accepting what they grew up with.

Our mentality should change. We need to strive harder to improve our living conditions. We should forget about that downgrading trait they call as resilience. We should not be complacent to accept a less dignified fate. Let us all set aside our timidity and insecurity. We deserve more because we are capable of doing and becoming more than what is expected from us.

All of us should aim to end the poverty that still blights this nation. It is time to put our faith into action and build our own dreams. It is g=high time we ask the question "What can we do for our country?"

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