Feeding one hungry child at a time

Feeding one hungry child at a time

By: - Correspondent / @carlagomezINQ
/ 04:35 AM March 26, 2024

CONFLICT ZONE Millie Kilayko and her colleagues from the Negrense Volunteers for Change go where help is most needed, like Marawi City where they have provided food to residents displaced by the 2017 siege. —AESON BALDEVIA/CONTRIBUTOR

CONFLICT ZONE Millie Kilayko and her colleagues from the Negrense Volunteers for Change go where help is most needed, like Marawi City where they have provided food to residents displaced by the 2017 siege. —AESON BALDEVIA/CONTRIBUTOR

BACOLOD CITY—Had Millie Kilayko pursued a career in journalism or marketing, it would have given her financial success.

Instead, she gave up opportunities in the corporate world to ride buses bound for the countryside, along with chickens and pigs, to reach remote villages; ride pillion on a habal-habal (passenger motorcycle) to traverse steep mountains in search of children who survived on a single piece of cassava a day; or trek to a valley where a woman lived in a pigsty.


And she would not trade this purposeful life for anything.


Kilayko is founding president and chief executive officer of Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, which has, among others, been feeding at least 55,000 children across the nation through its Mingo Meals Nutrition program.

Mingo Meals, the instant nutritious complementary food for infants and toddlers manufactured by NVC, has been served 24,638,948 times for nutrition programs or emergency relief in 60 provinces since its inception in 2010.

NVC has also provided 5,024 fishing boats to fisherfolk under its Peter Project, given educational assistance to 10,904 students, and built 480 homes for victims of calamities.

READ: P15.8B earmarked for school feeding program

Kilayko’s passion to feed the children was fueled by her encounter with a 9-year-old boy who started Kindergarten late because his parents couldn’t provide him enough food to give him energy for his daily walk to school, located several kilometers from the family home in Negros Occidental.

She has repeated that story so many times so people would understand that education goes beyond just providing children with books and classrooms.


“It’s first about making sure a child has enough nutrition to give him energy to go to school and has brains which are fed properly since conception, so the child can comprehend what his teachers impart,” she explains.

She confesses that she also repeats the story to herself almost every day to remind her of what matters most.

Letter from grandpa

Kilayko’s passion for her advocacies started way before that in the 1970s, when she was given a choice to remain in the United States after a short stint in school or go back to the Philippines.

She received a letter from her grandfather, Don Carlos Locsin, the first Filipino president of Victorias Milling Co. Inc., then the biggest sugar refinery in Southeast Asia. In the letter, Don Carlos told his granddaughter the Philippines would never progress if people kept leaving the country for better jobs.

That sealed her decision to return to her home province of Negros Occidental, where she later lived in a plantation where an uncle exposed her to the plight of the poor and the responsibilities of people toward those who had less in life.

Starting with social development projects in her uncle’s farm, she later joined him in his projects aimed at helping the poor.

“I would ask him how I should listen to my social conscience when I needed to make choices. His answer was simple. He told me to ask myself what Jesus would do if He were in my place. That has governed my decisions since then. And I guess, that is what brought me to where I am now,” says Kilayko.

Her first big project was her involvement in the Star of Hope Project in Negros Occidental in 1986. The province was then reeling from low sugar prices and massive child malnutrition.

The project helped provide livelihood to 2,000 workers from poor communities who produced 200,000 collapsible lanterns marketed with the “Isang Parol, Isang Buhay” (One Lantern, One Life) tagline.

Entrepreneurial spirit

Lanterns found their way to major roadways and buildings in the metropolis as well as homes across the country during the Christmas season of 1986.

Kilayko also used to be an active leader in the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), which spearheads the longest running provincially organized trade fair held annually in Metro Manila.

It is composed of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), many of whom have transitioned to exporters from micro enterprises in order to create livelihood opportunities and help spur diversification in their once monocropped (sugarcane-producing) province.

Millie Kilayko —EUGENE ARANETA

Millie Kilayko —EUGENE ARANETA

Kilayko traveled to the 20 poorest and remotest provinces of the Philippines as a volunteer for National Economic Enterprise Development Program of the Presidential Council for Countryside Development from 1994 to 1997 and brought hope to fledgling small entrepreneurs in the north, going as far as Batanes, and down to the southernmost provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

She was also the founding president of Suntown Camp Foundation Inc., an organization established in 2007 that helps poor children stricken with cancer or chronic illnesses.

Suntown provides these children support activities as a venue for self-expression with children sharing a similar journey in a fun, healthy and loving atmosphere. She has since passed on the torch to the younger volunteers of the foundation.

To raise funds for NVC and other projects, Kilayko only needed to tell her audience what is exactly happening in the countryside: children surviving on a piece of boiled cassava a day, and a woman living in an actual pigsty.

Her stories have moved her audience so much that some children have broken their piggy banks to help feed hungry kids, and matrons have given up flashy parties to fund fishing boats for fishermen who lost theirs to disasters.

Some businessmen from her province as well as those in Silicon Valley in California who have heard about NVC would deposit funds regularly to support causes close to her heart.

Kilayko refuses to take credit for the successes of her projects, saying their gains are the result of the collaborative work of a group of volunteers.

While she espouses the employment of professionals for the sustainable management of her projects, most of them also enjoy the involvement of volunteers, largely due to her leadership as well as her tireless dedication.

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After all, as a nonsalaried chief executive, she is the premier volunteer of the organizations she has led or continues to lead. INQ

TAGS: feeding, Hunger

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