Sign IN >>

Fil-Am Youth Organizes Book Drive for GK Communities
[Date Created: January 12, 2014]

by Jeremy Tanlimco

“‘The best thing for being sad,’ replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, ‘is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.’” – T. H. White. The Once and Future King

The door-to-door salesman
Carries his wares to look
Up at the daunting adults
Upon whose car windows he knocks.
“Ten pesos, please?”
Today he looks eye to eye
At the child who opens the window
As he exchanges a necklace
Of white flowers.

When I was five years old, I opened the car windows many times this way. The white flowers never lasted more than a day, but I always hoped that the effect of the ten pesos would. Then, poverty seemed to me a transient problem, one easily solved by simply taking the necklaces.

Nine years later while I was visiting the Philippines, a child came up to our car and knocked again. By this time, I had had the experience of seeing poverty in America from an American perspective: a far more intangible problem than that which my early years in the Philippines had impressed upon me. Americans see the occasional and silent homeless person on the street corner with a cardboard sign, and the general understanding of the “poverty problem” is comprised of stereotypes and misunderstandings – not that poverty is less problematic, but in the minds of those who make decisions, it seems less ubiquitous.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, poverty walks up to your door offering white flowers in exchange for small change and knocks on the car windows during a red light; in short, loudly makes known its presence. In the Philippines, panhandlers feel less ostracized and more ready to ask for change than those in America, as if poverty in the Philippines were so widespread and unsolvable to the point where it became, in the view of many, a morally and socially accepted reality. I talked with my ninang later about this, and she advised against giving money to these street kids; she explained that they would mob the car and create a dangerous situation. “Give them candy instead,” she said. “That’s what I do.” I asked why candy would provoke a different response than money; she detailed how some of these children worked with underground criminals, trading money begged for each night’s shelter. Poverty, in my mind, had become far more complex, not a problem to be fixed with just ten pesos.

>> Learn about Gawad Kalinga's take on poverty

A couple of years after that, and back in America, I sifted through my tremendously long to-do list and came across “Eagle Service Project ideas.” Having participated in the local Boy Scout troop since sixth grade, I had progressed to the rank of Life, that before the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America, Eagle. One of the requirements to bridge that gap involved leading a service project of considerable size, and since my first remembered experience of the young door-to-door salesmen, I had wanted to do something for the Philippines. I knew I could not do a fundraiser (the requirement specifically rules out any project that primarily collects money), which I knew would be the most cost-effective way to help. I also knew that most Eagle Scouts define themselves by their projects, so I realized this decision would have colossal reverberations. I remembered that my family moved to the United States because of educational opportunity, leaving behind stable jobs and affluent lifestyles in order to do so, and instinctively decided I wanted my project to do with education. I considered donating school supplies and backpacks, but figured it would not be economical when the time came to ship them. I settled on books, since I had had my share of low-quality, fragile brown paper in my time in the Philippines, and shipping books would be the most cost-efficient support next to a monetary donation because books in America prove far less expensive, comparatively, to those in the Philippines. Searching for a beneficiary organization, I found Gawad Kalinga (GK), the non-profit organization that builds communities from scratch and shares my passion for education and knowledge.

>> Learn about Gawad Kalinga's Child and Youth Development Program

After filling out all the required paperwork and securing all the necessary permissions for my project, I began work. I collected children’s books and monetary donations (to cover shipping expenses) at my high school, my old elementary school, my Boy Scout troop, and my parish. Because of the dual nature of collecting and shipping books, I had to maintain a balance between books and money with which to ship them. In the end, I had collected more than one thousand one hundred books and DVDs, which I promptly packed into boxes and shipped to the GK centers in Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro, and Cebu. With the leftover money, I donated to the rebuilding of GK schools in Basilan, Mindanao.

With luck, I have inspired at least one individual to start asking questions, to learn, to doubt, and to think. What a legacy to have left behind with my project.


Gawad Kalinga is not a charity, rather, it's an organization that aims to end poverty by building sustainable communities. This would not be possible without partners like Swiber who have journeyed with us in changing the lives of others. You too can help the poorest of the poor and partner with us in building sustainable and holistic GK communities! For more information, visit this link or email

- See more at:

Gawad Kalinga is not a charity, rather, it’s an organization that aims to end poverty by building sustainable communities. The work of Gawad Kalinga is partly fueled by the heroism and energy of partners and volunteers from all over the world who refuse to accept poverty as part of the fate of the Philippines. Like Jeremy Tanlimco, you too can be part of our global army of volunteers and nation-builders! Email for more information.


Jeremy Tanlimco is a 16-year-old living in Silicon Valley. He achieved the Boy Scout Eagle Rank in November 2013 and continues to live out his passion for learning. His other interests include playing violin in an orchestra, helping manage a robotics team, swimming competitively, reading great literature, the Popular Science magazine, and XKCD comics, and discussing existentialist philosophy with his friends. Catch him at

Who we are | FAQs | Archive | Contact Us
Copyright 2014 GK1WORLD All rights reserved | designed by Gawad Kalinga Marketing Team