'Bayanihan' spirit propelling lives of GK Dreamland settlers (Feature)

March 11, 2012 12:16 am 

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

SAN JOSE DEL MONTE CITY, Bulacan, March 10 – Former squatter families living along Makati City's creeks, river banks, under bridges and vacant private or government lots have been given a fresh start at life in their new homes at Gawad Kalinga Dreamland, a 3.2-hectare relocation site in Barangay Kaypian in this city of Bulacan province.

GK Dreamland, as the project is known to its settler families, was opened in 2008 when the Makati local government under the leadership of then Mayor and now Vice President Jejomar C. Binay acquired the land to house informal dwellers living in Makati.

Beneficiaries came mostly from squatter communities in Barangays Carmona, Tejeros, Pembo, Baracol and Poblacion.

Prior to getting their brand-new concrete homes, each with a floor area of 40 square meters, prospective residents have to show proof or documentation that they have been residing in any of Makati's squatter's communities in 1998 and have been given a demolition order by the local government.

As of March 10, 2012, at least 193 houses have been turned over to the same number of recipient families.

GK Dreamland has enough room for 414 families, meaning that the site could still accommodate 221 beneficiary families.

Social Worker Welsa A. Bonanciar of the Makati Social Welfare Development Department said that recipients are now required to shell out any money for their new houses in GK Dreamland.

"Everything here is for free. No one has to pay anything. All they are required to do is to comply with our house rules and help in the construction of new houses for their fellow beneficiaries," she added.

House rules in GK Dreamland include no public drinking, no walking shirtless outdoor, and no fighting, no gambling, and no raising of livestock.

Bonanciar said that settlers are very happy in helping construct new homes for other beneficiaries, adding that it helps get a sense of upliftment.

Her claim was bolstered by the statement of GK Dreamland foreman Fred Salonga, who supervises the building of the homes in the community.

"A lot of people here volunteer to do construction work. In fact, many of them are women. In any given day, as long as there are building materials available, between 40 to 80 people are working in row houses slated for completion and turnover to new occupants," he said.

Salonga stressed that volunteers are not given any allowance or pay for their services except "maybe some soft drinks or light snack which is more of a token of appreciation" from the new homeowner.

"But other than that, no payment of any kind is required," he said.

Salonga said that plans are afoot to improve GK Dreamland's basketball court, playground, and multipurpose hall, and the construction of a chapel.

Electricity and water supplies are readily available to the settlers, aside from the fact that they are near a major road making transportation to them easier.

Bonanciar said that a livelihood and supplementary feeding center is available in GK Dreamland alongside a cooperative store where basic supplies can be brought by residents at slightly lower prices.

She added that the livelihood center, which is involved in cleaning and making rags, is already benefiting 10 jobless mothers.

Bonanciar said that the items are taken to an outlet in Barangay Poblacion, Makati where they are sold.

Proceeds are used to acquire new equipment, materials, and pay the laborers who help in the manufacture of the rags. (PNA) scs/PFN

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