In the face of mass hyperurbanization, where do we even start to make a shift: fair labor practice, cleaning up the environment, more affordable housing? How can disaster response serve as a catalyst for bringing forth greater infrastructural change?
One organization based in the Philippines may just have a big part of the answer, and is certainly no stranger to disaster recovery. Gawad Kalinga is quickly becoming an international NGO that originally began as a local movement in the Philippines, aimed at eradicating poverty by building villages and communities with squatters all over the country. Started in 2000, several projects have already established together over 15,000 homes in more than 600 villages.
Gawad Kalinga, which means “to give care,” relies on strengthening communal infrastructure that not only includes site development, but education and health facilities, livelihood and community empowerment but, essentially, an economic engine for people and not just raw shelter. The homes are built on sweat equity and skills training, and the organization even provides start-up capital for micro-enterprises and the marketing of community-based products.
Founder Tony Meloto says, “If you want to bring the country out of poverty, give the poorest of the poor a middle class environment so they have middle class aspirations. [...] The problem of poverty is not economic, it is behavioral.”