by Gia Leanne Luga
We always say that there’s a lot more to Gawad Kalinga than just building houses or communities. That it’s really about mainstreaming a culture of caring and sharing, of thinking beyond oneself and not leaving the poor behind. When Citi celebrated their 200 years last June 16, they showed that in the growth and journey of Citibank, they’ve also allowed their communities to grow with them. Instead of throwing a big party to celebrate this milestone, 4,594 Citi employees from all over the Philippines gave back to the community by volunteering their time and talent to different NGO partners during their Global Community Day. Working with Gawad Kalinga, Citi employees from Manila, Cebu and Davao left their office cubicles and donned sneakers, working clothes and gloves to build homes for the poor and teach children the love of reading and sports.
Giving back to the community and mainstreaming a culture of caring and sharing
Citi Country Officer for the Philippines Sanjiv Vohra says that “On our Global Community Day, bankers become teachers for a day or basketball coaches or environmental advocates. We all gladly embrace these roles in the service of our communities.” The spirit of volunteerism is very much alive in Citi, and “We are proud to have a strong tradition of volunteerism in the Philippines where our employees gladly serve the community by taking on causes we each believe in – whether it’s caring for the environment, empowering the less fortunate or painting a brighter future for children,” Sanjiv continues.
Journeying with the Community
Citi employees give their time and talent to GK Manggahan-Kawayanan
Citi has built 3 Gawad Kalinga communities in the Philippines, and one of those communities can be found in GK Manggahan-Kawayanan in Paranaque City. This was where around 600 employees volunteered to celebrate Citi’s 200 years. The activity in GK Manggahan-Kawayanan was held over the span of two Saturdays, where Citi employees built houses, taught arts and crafts, taught children the love of reading, held soccer and basketball clinics, and really spent time getting to know the Kapitbahayans. Citi lawyers even held a legal clinic to give free legal advice for the Kapitbahayans on June 16, proving that we can take volunteerism a notch higher by really focusing on the specific skills that we can share to the community.
GK Manggahan-Kawayanan is composed of several villages funded by various partners, one of them being Citi. Nanay Eva Abejero is one of the residents of the Citi village and during the sharing session, she mentioned that she will always be grateful to Citibank because before moving into her new home, she didn’t think it was possible to believe in herself and her capabilities. Nanay Eva is now the Kapitbahayan President, and as she regained her dignity she is now serving her community and helping her fellow Kapitbahayans believe in themselves as well. “Kailanman, siguro hanggang sa pinakahuling hininga ko, ang Citibank ay hindi pwedeng makalimutan ng Manggahan-Kawayanan. (Even to my last breath, I don’t think it’s possible for Citibank to ever be forgotten by Manggahan-Kawayanan),” Nanay Eva muses.
Nanay Eva thanking the Citi volunteers;
Nanay Eva with her fellow Kapitbahayans
It is the hope and pride that can be seen in the eyes of people like Nanay Eva that makes Citi come back year after year. Corporate Citizenship Manager Kevin Goco states that “Our work is not so much checkbook philanthropy but really being present in the lives of the people we’ve helped.” In the years that Citibank has been working with Gawad Kalinga, the culture of Bayanihan has really spread to the employees. “In Citi, what’s really more important is the service more so than the donation. The partnership with GK is one of the big reasons why the Bayanihan spirit is very much alive with Citi,” Kevin continues.
Building Kalinga Teams
Citi has been a strong partner throughout the years, and in those years they’ve engaged in multiple Gawad Kalinga programs. More than just building basic homes, they’ve also engaged with GK’s sustainability programs like the commercial farming in Catigan. More than that, Citi has really mainstreamed volunteerism as a movement with their hundreds of employees engaging with GK every year for their community day.
>>> Read more in "Citi Philippines, Gawad Kalinga lead harvest festival with 70 farmer-partners"
Citi Corporate Citinzenship Manager Kevin Goco, Gawad Kalinga Partnerships Group Head Michelle Sta. Catalina, and Citi Director & Country Legal Counsel Atty. Pia Lacson with the check for Php200,000
As the 200-year celebration in GK Manggahan-Kawayanan came to a close and to make the day even more memorable, Citi presented a donation worth Php200,000 to Gawad Kalinga. But Citi maintains that it doesn’t end with the Global Community Day. This year, the challenge for Citi is to take it a notch deeper by building Kalinga teams beyond the Community Day. Over the next few weeks, Citi employees will be forming Kalinga teams to volunteer not only during the Community Day but also during weekends or anytime they feel like it.
Citi’s 200th year was about celebrating past relationships, but it was also about building a better future and moving forward. In the same way, Gawad Kalinga understands that to move forward to 2024 and to build a poverty-free nation, we need to build more than just homes. We need to build an army of volunteers and partners who truly understand what caring and sharing is really about. We need partners like Citi who will mobilize and empower their employees to really care for the poor and contribute to nation-building. Because building a nation doesn’t end with building the communities. It’s about journeying with these communities, caring for them, and being there for them every step of the way.
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 the partners 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 email@example.com.