I thought I’d be spending tonight hosting, chatting with entrepreneurs, and eating pizza at the Ayala-sponsored Juan Great Leap event at the UP Technohub. Instead, I found myself volunteering to help feed people in makeshift centers near Marikina River with some of my friends from my community.
As you would expect, the conditions were brutal. The first site we went to was a converted Church. The pews were arranged in squares, where each family would stay – a good number of them with their dogs. As a father of young children, my heart immediately went out to the small children and babies.
We then went to work.
I ended up with the porridge-distribution role. We had plastic cups ready, but it looked as if they’ve done this before – they lined up with their own containers. A few of them carried real cups and bowls, but most of them brought the makeshift-variety: empty yakisoba cups, or even used Mcdonald’s spaghetti-styros. While I poured the lugaw (it took 3-4 times with the ladel I had), I tried to engage in some small talk. Most of them smiled. Some kids wanted their cups full to the brim. Some made jokes with me. Some tried to help out.
We have a unique and resilient people. It’s easy to fall in love with them.
If I had to evacuate my house, transfer my family to a crowded shelter, get all wet, and beg for food? I’d have thrown a hissy-fit, or go all Edward Cullen-emo and ask the heavens why?!.
The second site we went to, a converted basketball court, had harsher conditions. The people density was worse, and they were crammed in blue and yellow Pasig-City tents (which were not bad, it was just the density). Within minutes, the remainder of the food we brought was finished. (people, we have to continue to give and donate) There were some very heartening scenes though: a Manila Water truck pulling in to distribute free water, the most sincere thank-you’s you can ever imagine (highbrows who say giving people fish isn’t wise please find a rock and just go away), an individual Urvan coming in while we were leaving who brought even more food.
That Urvan was especially inspirational for me. We came in a caravan of 5-6 cars. This was just one family, who probably said to themselves: “Let’s go get some food, and then let’s go around and distribute it ourselves.” I found it amazing.
Even alone, you can make a difference.
Upon arriving home and while taking probably the most guild-laden hot shower of my life, my thoughts were racing.
What can I do? What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?
For starters, I couldn’t wait to write and share this story.
I can plead with you – the entrepreneur and the would-be-entrepreneur – to put JUAN in your motivation equation, to extend the concept of family to include, not merely your kin and friends, but Juan as well. The impoverished Juan who gets marginalized, neglected, and often taken advantage of.
Let’s endeavor to make our startups work, not merely to make money, but to create jobs. (and not those zombie-jobs too)
Let’s endeavor to make our startups work, not merely for our freedom, but to help facilitate freedom from poverty. It’s a big hairy, problem. And even from just writing that line, it feels a bit contrived (maybe because it sounds like something a politician would say). It’s certainly a problem worth sinking our collective entrepreneurial chops into.
I’m especially inviting (challenging!) the very best of you – the most talented, the most brilliant, the most capable – to make a true difference.
Juan dela Cruz is certainly worth it.
Here’s an idea. Why don’t we sit down and talk about it? I was thinking a startup event, but one which solely focuses solely on social, nation-building, entrepreneurship. A Social Entrepreneurship Conference or Pitch Night perhaps? I have a lot of ideas on how to do it, but I want to share the experience of building on it and collaborate.
Then COMMENT below. Comment if you’re in. Comment if you’d love to help me arrange it. Comment if you know a venue. Comment if you can bring food or drinks. Comment if you’d want to sponsor it. Comment even on why you think it won’t work.
Comment. Act. Move. Leap. Just do.