You are crazy, but you are not alone
MAD travel is the third social enterprise we interviewed within Gawad Kalinga. Gawad Kalinga is a huge organization which aims at finishing poverty of 5 million families till 2024. Few years ago they decided that the best way to fulfill their goal is to invest in social businesses. In the Enchanted Farm, Gawad Kalinga's headquarter, there are currently more than 30 social enterprises, operating in different sectors. MAD Travel is made to Make A Difference in the lives of each of the guests and the Filipino communities they partner with. They inspire people from all over the world to discover the very best of the Philippines: 7,107 islands rich in culture, natural beauty, and heartwarming communities.
Rafael Dioniso, co-founder: Make a Difference, MAD travel, is a travel agency; we offer tours which are fun and fulfilling. Fun is easy. Fulfilling is the hard part. We work with Gawad Kalinga in terms of going to communities which really have value. If they don’t, we build it with them, we work to discover their talents and create together interesting hubs. We want to open the door for the community to learn skills and develop products, have access to education.
Sophie Methler, community development manager: We start our work with a community from getting to know their stories, figuring out who is confident and speaks English and is able to share those stories. We make a profile of the community and then we divide it into possible actions, what they can propose. Maybe they gather together in the evening with guests, tell stories, sing, dance. So we try to find out who is good at dancing, singing. There is always someone. We are also figuring out activities - like cooking, who has skills and facilities for it. Also who can guide around. It’s important to identify key talents, confident people who can speak English.
Rafael: Once you see talents, you also see gaps and you understand what capacity building we have to bring in. That’s the second question: what skills we need to provide them. They have 70% already, it’s this 30% which will be given by the social enterprise. We believe in empowering communities, we don’t want to impose anything.
Even if it’s not always easy.
Sophie: One of the biggest challenges is consistency. It’s important to be in a community, when guests are there, to monitor, to check. For example, when we came to an indigenous community with guests the first time, they were very excited, the host was crying, she was so touched. The second time she was not crying but she was still prepared with food and everything. The third time nothing was prepared. I asked why and she said there was no budget. And she didn’t let me know before. We have to be consistent, we have to be there before guests arrive, check, stay in touch. The problem is also connected with NGOs which from time to time donate something, but with no consistency. Indigenous people actually don’t have consistency in their life, never. They are not used to it. We teach them about that by personal example.
They teach consistency and learn generosity.
Rafael: I fell in love with the indigenous, they are so beautiful. The most generous people I know are indigenous. I think this is the source of my commitment. In the past I wanted to be the CEO of an international company, become rich… Change happened when I met Tito Tony, founder of Gawad Kalinga, and it was cemented by having friends who actually experienced hunger. What motivates me is to see people who are hungry and poor while we have so many resources available. My dream is no more poverty in this country. There is no reason for it to be here. I feel it especially when I talk with other Filipinos and they believe there is no way out. I want to tell them: 'Look, there is serious money here, both for you and others. Some of you have to go around with bodyguards, it will never happen if you share'.
Rafael and Sophie quit their prospective careers and jumped into the social entrepreneurship adventure, slowly introducing a change.
Sophie: Communities start to have so many visions and dreams, they know they can implement things, they already have an entrepreneurial attitude, which is a huge success. Also youth, children, their visions, dreams, who they want to become in future, the jobs they want to have, their English… it’s an amazing improvement compared to their parents.
Rafael: Another indicator of success is the standard of accommodation and food for guests, it’s much better than it used to. And with that comes the concept of healthy nutrition, which is not common in the Philippines; most Filipinos hate vegetables. Next indicator would be speaking English. Speaking English gives confidence, it’s the language of the rich here. Then also the number of kids in school. And health. Bigger houses. A roof which doesn’t leak. Electricity.
How to make this happen?
Rafael: A lot of people try to start business on their own. I think you can’t do it alone, you have limited amounts of skills and time. I will always suggest – take partners. I tried to do eight different businesses, six of them failed already. Finding someone with the same vision is hard, but finding somebody with the same vision and complementary skills is even harder. Although not impossible. If you want to try… you are crazy. But you are not alone.
More about MAD travel: http://madtravel.org