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  • GK USA

Travel With Purpose

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

By Mels Balitaan, GK Worker

What is your purpose in life?

I have known Gawad Kalinga (GK) and its mission ever since I was in high school. We had the privilege to regularly visit a GK Community located near our school where we were able to help build houses and spend time with the families residing there. We learned how these simple visits leave a big impact on the lives of the people who volunteered, and most importantly to those who were on the receiving end. As a young student then, the experience definitely changed and humbled me—ultimately leading me to decide to continue what I, and the others, have started.

Fast forward to today as I write about my first field work, I also celebrate my third week as a full-time worker for GK. I never thought I would be here—doing what I dreamt of doing when I came home after our first immersion all those years ago. I can’t believe that after a long time of being scared to face the unknown, I finally had the courage to pursue this vision and continue my mission to be of service to God and to our beloved country.

Last April 12-16, people from different parts of the Philippines and the world came together to experience this year’s first leg of the Bayani Challenge (BC). How perfect it was to start this annual summer activity in the breathtaking islands of El Nido, Palawan! A sanctuary wherein mystery and awe greets you as you go through its majestic mountains, swim through the surrounding crystal clear ocean, and spend five days with families, kids, and participants who all share a common goal: to hope and share hope.

If I told myself a year ago that this is how and where I would spend my first day working with Gawad Kalinga, I would never have believed it.

My first Bayani Challenge experience was filled with a lot of other firsts: my first time to ride an airplane and travel alone, my first time to visit Palawan, and my first time to volunteer and, at the same time, document the activities and different life stories. I flew to El Nido with absolutely no idea what to expect—but went home with a heart full of love and motivation.

It’s been 15 days since I came back from Palawan, but until now I still can’t put everything into words what I’ve experienced there with everyone. I have never been this fulfilled, happy, and inspired—and I can’t wait to live out the bayanihan spirit again, going out there and creating life-changing memories with others.

For the longest time, I’ve been asking myself: “what is my purpose? But after being a part of Gawad Kalinga, I can now ask a better question:

“What will I do with my newfound purpose?”

Mels Balitaan at the 2019 GK Bayani Build Challenge in Palawan, Philippines
The author with other volunteers at this year's Bayani Build Challenge in Palawan, Philippines

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