As the cofounder of the social tourism enterprise MAD Make A Difference Travel, I get to meet many people from around the world eager to find hope and inspiration in the Philippines.
Many of them pass by the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan. This week, I have invited one of our Australian guests, Australian Hanna Skehill, to share her own two-week experience among the communities of GK.
“As the fourth Global Social Business Summit draws to a close and over 500 local and international delegates head home, those that stay behind can reflect on a remarkable and productive few days. This is certainly true of the team that runs The Make Peace Bakery, the social enterprise that has welcomed me as a member of their team over the past two weeks.
“I am one of a cohort of group of students from Swinburne University in Melbourne who arrived at the GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, on a study-tour program. I arrived here expecting to learn about social enterprise and a more inclusive approach to doing business, but was not expecting to be considered as an extended member of the Make Peace family, as the founders Anj Mariano-Calungcaguin and Yok Calungcaguin, have welcomed me.
“I will miss the particularly welcoming smile with which Anj would greet customers every morning, while her husband Yok was busy baking behind her in the kitchen. As you watch them, it is hard to imagine that they arrived at the previous summit last year simply as guests. Back then, they became so inspired that they upended their life plans so as to pursue their dream to help the disadvantaged youth succeed in life through teaching them baking skills so that the can one day run their own bakeries.”
“Anj and Yok were caterers in Manila when they came to the third Global Social Business Summit back in January 2016. There they found themselves inspired by the School for Experimental and Entrepreneurial Development [SEED] students, a collage that trains bright students from impoverished backgrounds to become social entrepreneurs. Many of these students are now the pioneers behind over 40 social enterprises incubated at the farm.
“Once Anj and Yok decided to move to the farm, it was just a matter of gathering themselves and their young son and starting their new lives here. Not to say that it was easy, they had to work hard to be able to run a functional bakery on the farm, as well as to be able to give opportunities to as many young boys they could.
“Presently, the team consists of four youths, three of them current SEED students. Rolando de la Cruz Rolando, referred to as Lando by his friends is 21 years old, Jayson is 23; and John Rancel Garcia, also known as Rancel, is 15. Also a major member of the team is Marine de la Sayette, a 23-year-old French intern who has been on the farm for three months after she herself came for the first time in 2011. Together, this group of people, from different backgrounds and experiences, bring life to the bakery.
“Life starts early in the bakery. A typical morning starts with Jayson arriving at 2 a.m. to make a start on the dough and by 4 a.m. the whole place is buzzing with activity as the days baking gets fully under way.
“Watching the boys play around with each other, as well as their ambitions for the future, it is hard to remember all the hardships they experienced before they became SEED students. For all of them, this opportunity has been priceless. All the boys have visions for the future but none of them can imagine not using the baking skills they have learnt or not continuing to be part of the family they have created together.
“As for the future of The Make Peace Bakery, Anj and Yok hope for a time when the youths they have so beautifully trained are able to open their own bakeries in other GK locations. But Anj and Yok themselves will not be going anywhere soon. You can meet them at The Make Peace Bakery, situated at the entrance to the GK Enchanted Farm, and the team’s freshly baked goods—not to mention their smiley faces—might just make your day.
“On a personal level, I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks with the team, and I was touched by their passion and happiness. They approached every day with a determination to succeed and I found myself swept up in their journey, striving right alongside them to help the bakery succeed. Despite being with them for just this short period, they—and all I learnt from them—will stay with me for a long time. I am confident that I, too, will find myself back at the Enchanted Farm some day and back with the bakery family that has made me feel so welcome.”
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Thomas Graham is an international speaker and author of the book The Genius of the Poor. Thomas is also the cofounder of MAD (Make A Difference) Travel (www.madtravel.org), a social tourism enterprise that creates fun and fulfilling travel experiences in partnership with Gawad Kalinga communities.