San Lorenzo Ruiz (Imelda), Camarines Norte (PNA) — Some 2,000 Bayani Challenge volunteers who built 44 houses for poor, homeless families here have completed their five-day tour of duty, leaving behind hopes for brighter life ahead to the beneficiaries.
“I see in their faces the signs of hope for brighter life. I can hear from their lips the optimism that the next days in their lives will be different under the roofs of the new homes they could call their own,” Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado told the PNA Thursday as he went around the site of the newly built houses.
The site, now called GK Friendship Village, is located in a two-hectare donated property in Barangay Laniton of this 5th class upland municipality of about 13,000 people, mostly relying on agriculture for their livelihood.
The municipality was chosen by the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Foundation as one of the 34 sites across the country for its Bayani Challenge program this year that put in around 100,000 volunteers who answered the call of volunteerism in nation building.
“The urgent call of building this nation was answered once again as we challenged to bring the best of ourselves and work together toward our goal of expressing our love for country and caring for the poor with concrete and sustainable results,” GK founder Tony Meloto said in a statement on the closing day of the five-day works last Wednesday.
The over 2,000 volunteers coming from different parts of the province and elsewhere of the country arrived here last March 23 and following brief ceremonies and pleasantries, they buckled down from sunrise to sunset for five days to build permanent houses for the 44 families considered as the poorest of the poor among local residents.
“At least, we have 44 families delivered from extreme difficulties of living in makeshift dwelling points with these new homes built out of love and respect to human dignity. I see a more decent life ahead for these families that I believe will become more productive in this new village specially established for them,” town mayor Nelson De los Santos said.
Zarena Bacerdo, a 21-year-old college junior student from the nearby Barangay Bolo here who joined the volunteers in the works said, “I feel happy for these families and proud of myself for being part this year of Bayani Challenge. I am making it a commitment to be a volunteer in this yearly undertaking.”
Meloto, in the same statement, said that since it was first held in 2006, volunteers have looked forward to each year’s Bayani Challenge as their heroic response to whatever continues to threaten the poorest of the poor.
More than an event, the Bayani Challenge is a five-day test of courage, endurance and love for country and as it continues to grow every year, more and more volunteers and nation-builders from all over the world have responded to the challenge, he added.
According to Esperanza Prades, a 50-year-old market vendor and mother of nine and who is among the beneficiaries, the new house that she and her family now have “put an end to the inconvenience we had been suffering for years while living in a small, dilapidated shanty.”
“Tiyak, ligtas kamin dito sa bagyo (Certainly, we are safe from a typhoon here),” she said, adding that she, a widow, can already work more for a better future of her children without worrying about her family’s safety while she is away to work.
Martin Samson, a 35-year-old farm laborer and father of six, said, “Masaya kaming lahat sa bagong tahanan (We are all glad with these new homes).”
“Susuklian naming ito ng higit pang pagsisikap upang mapaganda ang aming buhay ayon na rin sa hangarin ng GK (We are going to repay this by way of striving hard to improve our lives according to the wishes of the GK),” Samson added.
Tallado thanked the GK Foundation for choosing his province as the only site in Bicol for this year’s Bayani Challenge.
“It is a new kind of People Power as volunteers from across the nation work together to ensure that no Filipino is left behind in the national pursuit for progress and sustainable development,” the governor said.
This year’s Bayani Challenge’s theme is “Isang bayan, Isang Bayanihan,” where volunteers sign up in teams for a five-day test of courage, endurance and love for country as they engage in varied nation-building activities.