The 28-year-old Lazarus was born in New York City. Throughout his life he had heard stories about the poverty in the Philippines and how blessed he should be for growing up in the US but he never believed it. He had to see it with his own eyes.
“I was like ‘this is for real,’” he said about his trip.
And now he’s doing something to help them.
Lazarus wearing a white shirt with “GK 777” was among the many young FilAms spreading the word about the work of Gawad Kalinga, the Philippine-based community development foundation aimed at building homes for the poor in the Philippines.
“I’m here to work with GK to unite the community,” he said during a Gawad Kalinga luncheon at the Max’s Restaurant in La Puente. “We need to come together especially the younger [FilAm] generation to succeed and uplift the poorest of the nation and give them basic needs and restore their dignity.”
President and Founder of GK Tony Meloto said that GK is starting a new organization called “GK 1MB” or “Gawad Kalinga one million builders” aimed at the young FilAms.
“It’s important to invite the second and third generation [FilAm] to the GK cause,” said Meloto to a group of FilAm students. “It’s the same massive poverty today that forced many of your parents to flee the country…As long as your parent’s county remains a third world, you’ll never be able to be proud of being a Filipino.”
“We have the numbers,” added Meloto. “But we are not united. Use GK as a vehicle for uniting and nation building.”
Since founding GK, the organization has helped build more than 1,700 villages and helped 200,000 families in the Philippines, according to Meloto.
But there’s more work to be done.
Meloto said that their new goal is build homes for five million families, the number of people in the Philippines who consider themselves poor.
“I have no doubt it can be done,” he said.
Last year, his son-in-law Dylan Wilk drove with his family more than 25,000 miles across the US, visiting 82 cities in a three-month span to spread the word about GK.
Meloto said the object is to set up branches of GK all across the US.
He understands that the one of the best way is to tap the FilAm youth and college market.
California State University, Fullerton FilAm student Christopher Cerame said it’s important for his peers to give back to their roots.
“It’s their culture whether they admit it or not,” he said. “When you get older you start realizing these are your people that need help.”