Gawad Kalinga (GK) is a local nonprofit in the Philippines with big dreams: it wants to end poverty in the country by 2024. To achieve this, the organisation works with households living on or below the poverty line on various fronts, including through education.
Since 2013, Microsoft has been collaborating with GK to empower youth with education, skills for employment and entrepreneurship. In March, GK received a Microsoft YouthSpark grant of US$10,000 to launch the #WeSpeakCode campaign across the communities it serves. Through the “WeSpeakCode Beyond Borders” programme, GK aims to provide more opportunities for impoverished youth to learn the basics of coding and empower up to 500 young Filipinos to become innovators of the future.
During the Week of Code, GK held a couple of half-day coding sessions at its GK Enchanted Farm to introduce students, aged between eight and 20, to fundamental concepts of app development.
GK and Microsoft also recently teamed up on a coding workshop based on Kodu Game Lab. As a programming language, Kodu allows students to exercise various aptitudes simultaneously, such as mathematics and the visual arts. By asking participants to create games, the workshop is a fun experience that could be taken as an end in itself, or a stepping stone for building further knowledge.
“Kodu provides an avenue for young children from less privileged backgrounds to dream, create and reimagine the world they live in,” explained GK Director Issa Cuevas-Santos.
These were among the reasons why 34 youth promptly signed up for the one-day workshop. When the participants were given free rein to create imaginary universes of their own, little did the trainers know what to expect. One student created a Technicoloured heart-shaped world and another conjured up a multi-layered game with robot minions ruling a remote kingdom.
Drey Bendijo, GK Area Coordination Team Member, said, “The workshop allowed students to showcase and discover their artistic talents. Many of them enjoy fiddling around with computers, but don’t quite know what they can do besides gaming. They love the idea that they can now be productive with a hobby, or even create the next game sensation!”
GK will continue extending the programme's reach to more communities, including post-conflict and post-disaster areas, to bring coding to children with limited access to technology. Concurrently, GK is also building the capacity of key area coordinators to organise more coding lessons.