Building Communities the Gawad Kalinga Way

Tony Meloto Speaks to NC State University students and faculty about Gawad Kalinga
Tony Meloto

Emily Holder

Halfway across the world there is a community of thriving workers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs that are determined to make their community work for them. It is part of Gawad Kalinga (GK), an organization focused on “building communities to end poverty” according to Tony Meloto, its founder. 

Meloto describes the journey that lead him to Gawad Kalinga, and it started with a life crisis.

After growing up in the Philipines and attending University, Meloto had seen the state of poverty both from a bottom-up and top-down perspective. He realized that the “old normal didn’t work”, and that the Filipino rich, poor, educated, and uneducated, could no longer exclude each other.

Meloto believes a successful community development model starts with care. Literally, Gawad Kalinga means “to give care” in Filipino, representing Meloto’s sentiment that if people are able to take care of their physical environment, then they are better able to take care of themselves and each other.

By transforming slums in the Phillipines into villages by using sweat equity from future home owners and generous donations from around the world, Gawad Kalinga invests in a community and sees the return in the renewed well-being of the people living there.

In order for the issues surrounding poverty, education, and health to be solved, Meloto believes it requires shared value-a convergence of values from the people, businesses, government, and other organizations.

By partnering with businesses such as Hyundai and Shell, as well as collaborating with social entrepreneurs from around the world, Gawad Kalinga delivers a model for sustainable community development.  It invests in entrepreneurial projects such as farms, street markets, and manufactured products that provide economic opportunities to Filipinos.

Dr. Francis de los Reyes, a native of the Philipines and friend to Meloto, believes in Gawad Kalinga and has supported the cause as a donor and volunteer. De los Reyes first got involved with GK in 2005, due to the connection the organization has with his home country.

Shortly after learning about the organization de los Reyes, his wife, their Filipino-American friends and family, and other North Carolinians were able to raise enough money ($30,000) to build a village. “When you see the result-a house, a program, the people-you realize you are part of something bigger and you want to continue to give,” said de los Reyes.

“GK serves as a template for sustainable development because it is an effective, impactful, stable, and credible organization that people want to be part of, invest in, and grow with,” according to de los Reyes.

Meloto recently visited  North Carolina State University where he spoke with students and faculty about his work.

Meloto’s honors include the 2010 Social Entrepreneur of the Year – Ernst and Young Philipines, the 2011 Japan Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth, and recognition as a Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur.

To learn more about Tony Meloto or how to get involved with Gawad Kalinga, visit

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