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Chasing the Filipino dream
[Date Created: September 16, 2014]

by Thomas Graham

* This article was published on the Philippine Star last September 14, 2014. For the online version, click HERE.

Founders Laurence Defontaines, Vicki Cabrera and Leslie Espinosa cut the ceremonial ribbon
during the opening of School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development.

MANILA, Philippines - In a sense, Leslie Espinosa was living the American dream. As a hairstylist and makeup artist for film and theater, her job took her from San Diego to Los Angeles, and finally to New York City, where she worked on popular Broadway shows.

Nevertheless, the death of her father following a long battle with cancer shook Leslie’s world, leaving her with a large void in her life that she somehow needed to fill.

“I didn’t know what it was, but all I knew was that I needed to go to the Philippines,” she explained.
Born and raised in America to Filipino parents, Leslie knew in her heart that she needed to get reconnected to her Asian roots.

Leslie decided to take up a volunteer teaching program in the Philippines and ended up exchanging New York City for Quezon City or, to be more precise, a public school in the district of Balintawak: “The area itself was dirty, smelly, dark and unsafe. I was soon hospitalized because of dengue fever, but even then I did not want to leave this country, because I was here to discover myself.”

Leslie’s sense of vocation was aroused by the immense poverty that she had encountered since she arrived, with a growing conviction that she needed to do something about it. She visited the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, a hub for local and international social entrepreneurs who have committed themselves to creating wealth in a way that leaves no one behind. “This was the place I needed to be, because I sensed I could make a real impact here.”

Now, less than a year later, Leslie calls the Enchanted Farm home and is one of the co-founders of SEED Philippines – the School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development – a countryside college for social entrepreneurs.

The first in the Philippines, it opened its doors last month to 45 students from various public schools in Bulacan. Leslie is one of three young foreign ladies – Vicki Cabrera, a fellow Filipino-American, and Laurence Defontaines, from France, being the others – who have decided against returning home in order to set up the school. It aims to provide quality, practical education for those with the least opportunity, mostly children of subsistence farmers. They have established the school under the watchful gaze of Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto.

GK is a nationwide movement that draws together all sections of society to work together, in enterprising ways, with the aim of ending poverty by the year 2024.

>> Read the full article HERE.

>> Read more in 1st Day of School: The School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) Philippines Opens at the GK Enchanted Farm

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