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Gawad Kalinga

Self-Described Spoiled Brat Becomes ‘Mother of Spartans’

  • 24
  • 01
  • 2017

Shirley Maya Tan – a wealthy Malaysian heiress who had grown up with Filipino nannies and maids that she bullied endlessly but strangely got love in return.

She says that her daily decisions revolved around things like whether to buy a Ferrari or a Porsche. For some reason, Tan was sure there had to be more to life, so she started thinking outside the box.

Shirley Maya Tan

In her efforts to relieve her discontent with what she saw as a fruitless life, she came across a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who eventually had a profound effect on her by ‘pointing the way’ and suggesting that she start writing. Thus, her blog ‘The Art of Fearless Living’ was born.

Another step involved visiting someone who rescued abused children and women who had been trafficked. She spoke with victims and was amazed that they still had positive attitudes toward life.

Positive attitude

That was the turning point for her. She questioned what she was accomplishing in her life and decided it was time to put herself on the line and begin to make a difference to people who need help.

She met Tony Meloto, who runs a poverty-alleviation program throughout the Philippines called Gawad Kalinga’s School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED). Graduates are called Spartans.

Tan liked the radical approach to education that prepares underprivileged individuals to be ‘social entrepreneurs, creators of wealth, and generators of employment.’

Gawad Kalinga

She became an investor, but didn’t just give money. She sponsored a group of 10 Spartans, living and working with them in the same community.

What a huge transformation from being a spoiled rich kid to a being a force for positive accomplishment. She is clearly paying forward the love she received from her Filipino nannies to underprivileged Filipinos that she nurtures into being Spartans.

Rabindranath Tagore quote

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