Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Humanity and our purpose

Watching a show called 1000 ways to die 

This show is absolutely crass. The puns they use are, well… painful. But I have noticed, I am more conducive to productivity when I am faced with white noise. At the same time, I have been looking into the words these advertisers have been using. 11pm, the best of the worst attracting those who are awake watching the ‘tube instead of sleeping (A.K.A. infomercials).

I remember buying a $500 Tony Robbins tape pack on late night TV. Victimized? Hardly. Targeted? ABSOLUTELY! Was it worth the purchase? I did listen to all the tapes and made positive changes in my life, built a business with the woman I love and managed to make it in a small way. So I guess yes, it was worth the purchase. (By the way, you can purchase the same tapes/audio series cheaper on ebay instead of the direct marketing company)

Humanity is designed to have a purpose, whether it is to be for self-indulgence and debauchery, profit, family, recognition, service to others or to a deity (or belief system!)

Late night TV can predictably give the underachievers or under appreciated or just those searching for something better a glimmer of hope. Hope that if Tony can do it, so can I. Hope that if someone as popular as Brittany Spears can have a complexion problem solved by Pro-Active, maybe I can achieve music greatness too. I know I stretch the imagination and reach sometimes, yet this seems to be the problem. People are looking for hope.

The first world citizens are certainly looking for it. What more our brothers and sisters in the poorer countries?

Maslow cited his hierarchy of needs, of which, a sense of achievement being one of the most important ones.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Chart
I blatantly took this image from the linked site

In simple terms, try giving a purpose to a family whose individual members (children included) scrape and barely get by. Their main focus is where to get the next meal. Give them a Hope that there is something better; you get a re-focusing of purpose other than basic survival.

I am not an anthropologist nor am I a sociologist. The experience I have in the Philippines is akin to a memory from a dream. Granted I still have the scars from growing up there, but society has a way to develop into a different analogue each time I visit. It’s the same… yet it’s different.

What stays the same, besides the enormous gap between the rich and poor, is the attitude of the people. The same stigma and superstition remain, as well as the seeming trust to those that momentarily captivate their attention. In blogs such as Get Real Philippines, a call for the Thinking Population is being heralded.

It all starts out with a simple ideal. A “Better Philippines” is a mantra I can rally behind. Yet who is to say what is “Better”? What metrics do we use? An even better question is how do we recover if we make a mistake?

The Fallows article I noted a few blogs back is one of the most articulate ones I have found. As I have shared previously, I am not a sociologist nor am I a person solely concerned about social justice. I am a firm believer in Free Enterprise. I believe in the hand up, not a hand down.

There is so much material to go through, it is going to drive me away from my main purpose, which is to build up my underprivileged brethren with Maslow's first two tiers (that is: Psychological and Safety Needs) of the pyramid using the Foundation.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

“Nothing is true, everything is permissible”

I have been bitten by the AC bug. My brother Vic bought home an XBOX360 a few years ago and AC2 came with it. My wife had to pry the controllers from my fingers and turn the TV off.

I have finished all but the last one. My little boy, Izzy actually watches the gameplay, puts on his hoodie and skulks around calling himself "Connor".

What has caught my attention to the gameplay is the philosophy of these fictitious sect of protectors.
This type of thinking must not just be summarised as "Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted" as you lose the personal responsibility of what you chose to do.

Postmodern thinking allows one to challenge everyone’s viewpoint. Relativism seems to be a popular ideology nowadays. This is not one of my apologetics essays where I point out the flaws of Post-Modern thinking, nor its illogical framework. (C’mon…. nothing is real, everything is relative… really?? Is this true for you only or for everything? If this is true for everything then it must be reality! But you said that there is no such thing as reality, therefore your claim is false! If it is only applicable for you, then why are you trying to convince me that this is applicable to me? Dude even my 5 year old knows not to reason with me like this.) (Okay maybe I may go into a little detail about it.)

The purpose of my bringing up this ideal is that as abhorrent as it is for me to follow, there are some bits of it I find useful. Postmodernism is supposed to teach you how to challenge the status quo, not be used to justify your lifestyle, morality or misunderstanding! (Okay, my bad.. I went into it again)

Maybe I will be more effective if I just do this without the “fluff”….

My point: Why do you have to have a university degree? Do businesses only need to employ people with a university degree? Is it plausible to employ quality people with no tertiary education, save their trade apprenticeships? Is the way business is being conducted presently in the Philippines irrevocable? Are standards actually followed? What if all trades were, under their own accord, following a higher standard than that was required? Is it possible that going to university does not guarantee employment? Have these questions been asked before, and if they have, what has the response been?

I know there are middle class families who are living payday to payday. I also know that a lot of my cousins who have attended university and finished all of them have obtained gainful employment.

I almost feel hypocritical in naming the School after lolo Amante. After all, he went to Wharton Business School and all of his kids went to university, some even pursued a post graduate specialization. Why do I want to have an “encouraged focus” on the trades?

I have no concrete source, but with decades of university focus for the middle class, the trades have been often looked down as a “blue collar” thus less paying profession. Imagine an entire population of engineering graduates, accountants, hospitality majors, art and literature specialists?

I remember the story Lyn's uncle Al once said, "My pizza gets delivered to me by a qualified engineering graduate! My Jollibee is served to me by someone who has better grasp of literature than I will ever have!"

I met a plumber once, just as I was finishing up Yr 9. He fixed our rented home's hot water system. He asked if I wanted to be his apprentice. This guy now owns two other plumbing trucks other than his and boy, does he rake it in. How my life would have been different if I actually pushed the issue with my parents and ended up being a tradie. Interestingly, some plumbers are actually earning more than their medical counterparts.

Maybe it is time to change the stereotype and be counter cultural for a change. Insanity is often described as repeating the same action yet expecting a different result. How many decades have we thrown kids into universities / colleges and mismanaged the resource that has eventuated?

A challenge, therefore, is given. Either manage the academics better by supplying the international business scene with world class Filipino graduates, or start measuring up as a tradie. Even better? Be a business builder.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Miracles do happen!

No internet makes Joeboy a little loopy.

As you read, I am currently in Coffs Harbour Treetops Resortby Wyndham. I am enjoying a little holiday over the Australia Day Weekend with the family using the Zapanta’s timeshare with Worldmark.

A beautiful thing about holidays is the complete lack contact. Though admittedly, as we settled in, I was doing a Simba with my phone, flailing away in a vain attempt to get the faintest of signals. Half a bar with Optus later and multiple attempts to buy overpriced resort wi-fi (the later abandoned due to the price… $40 per 1.2Gb?? and the wifi signal is only 2 bars on 801.2g? not worth it mate, specifically if you are trying to use it for some Forex trading) I have resorted to using my word processor to write my blog.

Now imagine doing that with your mobile, around the resort...

Miracles do happen, and I want to share that within this week (20th Jan to today 24th Jan) I have raised $3000 in cash!!!! Yeeeeee

I would like to thank the generosity of Sanctuary Christian Church and my mate Scottie for their contribution to the Foundation.

This brought the Philippine trip, in one fell swoop, all paid for. The $2000 in deficit, I will just have to fund from my own pocket.

I want to be completely transparent. The planned distribution of the $5000 would be:

$2000 – GaiN arranged transport, transfers, food, accommodation and insurance.

$1000 – Second week expenses (accommodation, food, basic stationery expenses such as internet and mobile calls)

$2000 – Set-up for the School and Foundation.

I plan to do at least 2 visits this 2014 for the Philippines, bit by bit, building the dream into reality.

Another miracle is that my mentor and sometime pastor, Dr. Mannie Velante, said that he was happy to accept the position of Chief Operations Officer for the Phoenix Foundation - Philippines.

This basically means, I have his credibility, his contacts, his network of people to work with straight off the bat!! Another blessing is that Pastor Mannie was keen as chips when I discussed the position, looking to his advice for potential candidates. His reply was, "I can do that!!"

Prayer points in these are the following:
1) Pastor and my decision to enter into this partnership is blessed by the Lord
2) Pastor's church is happy for him to move into this role and away from more of the mainstream shepherding role.
3) Lord bless us with more consistent funding as this phase of the operation is not, i repeat NOT currently sustainable. (READ: We need more money for this)

The COO is basically my representative back home. He will meet with prospective partners, converse with other churches for support and awareness, he will be my presence in the school whilst I am overseas. Decision making and business direction will be at his discretion, but I have the power of veto (though, he is my mentor... this foundation is basically hatched with his input, I doubt this will be used but it is here anyway)

Weekly skype meetings and daily phone catch ups should see this sorted. See how we go.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

May you have a blessed day!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Stepping out in Faith

My biggest hurdle in this time would be procrastination. I thought, if this thing could just be done with by hiring the right people, it is going to be a snap! Unfortunately I actually have to do work (SHOCK!!)

As I have intimated, the premise of a free school for the underprivileged is just the tip of the iceberg.

Preface the following statements with this: 

"I am a Christian. I am devoted to the Lord Jesus. I am NOT in this for the sole purpose of social justice, as I believe this is just going to put a band-aid on a tumor. I am NOT in this for the sole purpose of charity, as I believe that empowerment, enterprise and education are basic human rights, not just for the well-to-do. I will be making money from this, but only after the first 5 years, and after I have invested a HUGE amount of resources (read: time and money) into the project. I believe that generating income from such an endeavor is NOT SINFUL and finally I believe that the Lord's Will is for everyone to know Him and to share the Good News to everyone."

I believe it is pertinent that you acknowledge the context of what I am about to declare.

Basic Business Plan:

Step 1: Obtain permission to build a school (or a pre-existing one)
  • Free to the underprivileged (poor to lower middle class), with a voluntary contribution fee per annum (quite like the NSW  Public School System)
  • Focusing on NSW standards of education, and hopefully a recognition of learning transferable to AUS
  • Scripture classes are going to be part of the curriculum as well as a voluntary attendance to church/ Sunday School/ Youth groups but is NON-Mandatory
Step 2: Once school is built and pupils start learning, main focus on re-training their parents with a stipend. Skills such as basic trade to advanced trade (basic construction all the way up to an electrician's license)
  • More study is needed on this, yet I do believe re-training, or reinforcing training to an Australian International standard is the go just to make sure that there is future income rather than making a minimum wage earner return to their level of poverty.
  • Initially the candidates are either set up with their own mentors to apprentice them into basic skills. Favorable candidates will be sent over to TAFE NSW for further training.
  • As the Foundation progresses, this will need to be more of a training centre, focused on International Standard Trade training.
  • Instill in each participant the importance of paying forward, thus each employed/earning participant will be encouraged to sponsor/support students of the School besides their own kin.
  • Fostering a sense of Community, this group of participants will be encouraged to attend Church/ Couples Ministry/ Sunday School/ Bible Study, but it is NON-Mandatory
Step 3: Once parents are sufficiently trained, they will be encouraged to form their own consulting / contracting businesses, otherwise assistance will be given for them to obtain employment.
  • A percentage of their takings will be forwarded to the running costs of the school
  • An active arm of the foundation will be needed to source contracts for the skilled to obtain and do.
  • Profits will be solely the proprietors. (that is any funds left after the expenses, including salaries and proceeds for the Foundation)
Step 4: Re-create the process and move to another location
  • Hopefully this formulae can be extended to match other countries such as Myanmar or Cambodia

I know it seems simplistic, but the basic gist is the same. A self-funding charity that perpetuates Free Enterprise.

Let me know what you guys think!!!! I am keen to hone this bad boy to a pointy stick so I can poke out the eyes of oppression and poverty.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Phoenix Foundation, Philippines - 24th Feb 2014

MacGyver was employed by such an organization, back in the late 80's when his mullet style haircut and Swiss army knife can solve all things...

Lor (my wife, a.k.a. the love of my life) and I have always had this idea of a Phoenix rising from the ashes. It is a great metaphor for what we are trying to do in the Philippines.

So far, I am leaving for the Philippines on the 24th Feb 2014. Now how is this different from the other times I am going? This time, I will be spending time helping typhoon survivors and investigating the establishment of a school that will focus on helping the poor. I will only have time to visit my relatives for a day, day and a half if I am lucky.

The kicker? I misread the instructions of association with the Global Aid Network and thought that the due date is the 8th of Feb, wherein the 14th Jan was the initial payment. Notch that one up to me being bad at instructions.

I was given an extension to pay the $1500 for another 7 days, so this truly is going to be a leap of faith.

What took me so long?

I had faith that the Lord wanted me to do this but I have two kids, bills and debts to pay, and ridiculously high ambitions for grandeur.

I had faith that this is my calling, yet my comfortable middle class lifestyle has really called me to minister to my computer keyboard and the netizens of Facebook and Twitter.

I had faith that my Filipino brethren are in dire need of this School but truthfully, I was doubtful that our Lord is able to provide.

Do not get me wrong, I still doubt but I am now going to step in Faith.

Faith that the first $1500 will be provided within this week, faith that the full $5000 I am hoping to raise will be capitalized before the 8th Feb, Faith that this mission trip to Tacloban will open my eyes to the suffering of my Filipino bretheren, Faith that this School is the mission the Lord has given my life.

To that extent, I will be committing myself to another blog (yes, as if this one gets enough hits or views or updates for that matter) in a more visceral manner... a Video Blog!!   This will hold myself accountable to the sponsors that have pledged their finances and prayers for this trip.

23rd Feb, this should be up for your viewing pleasure.

What I do ask, my dear reader(s) is for your prayer. Not for me, but for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of the people before me. As I provide relief from their physical and social needs, pray that the Spirit move in them that they realize their need for the Good News of Salvation.

What moved me from inaction into motion?

Lolo Amante. Typhoon Yolanda 

I love it when atheists ask: "Where is your god when disaster hits?"

I always answer, "He is in the heart of every one of those helping."

This time, I am glad to say, "He is in my heart, urging me to move."