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What You Need to Know About Poverty, Pigs, and the Philippines

Brigham Young University Hawaii Students Change the World


A group of seven students—Alvin Dy, Alysha Gurr, Jadan Watson, Jordan Richards, Megan Russell, Sariah Villalon, and instructor Robert Tietjen—travelled 5,445 miles to the Philippines to change the worlds of 5 families facing one of this country’s greatest challenges: Poverty.

The Philippines is home to roughly 105 million people. 21.6% live below the national poverty line.

That means roughly 23,000,000 Filipinos live in poverty.

An Engaging Plan to Combat the Philippines’ Financial Epidemic

Jordan Richards—a student studying Business Management from New Zealand—served his mission in the Philippines Tacloban Mission where he found this horribly heartbreaking trend among this impoverished people. In his Social Entrepreneurship class he felt impressed to find a distinct, yet unexpected way, to buoy up the people he loves.


Through pigs.

Pigs for Prosperity was created. With this newly formed team, they worked countless hours to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign. The group made $2500 in two weeks through supporters of the Indiegogo campaign!

Then came the tedious hours of creating a “13 Step Plan” to keep the program sustainable in order to bring a glimpse of wealth into these family’s lives and the lives of future recipients, too.

They requested help of the Catmon barangay captain–the highest elected official of a basic political division–to select five families who deemed highest need in Ormoc, Leyte.

After that, the families were gladly notified that they were chosen and the training process began. They were taught how to build pens for the pigs, how to care for them, and the future goals of the program.

One major future goal is to elevate the chosen families to a position where they are able to give back to their community. After the piglets have grown and given birth to a new litter, two piglets will be given to the next needy family in the barangay. The process will continue and hopefully lift one community at a time, out of the grasp of poverty.

Our students who started Pigs for Prosperity have a desire to bring “light and joy” into families who may, at times, feel helpless. They focus on the “needs of entrepreneurs in the developing world” with the hope that this project can not only benefit these families, but also the community.

Poor Living Conditions of Real, Struggling Families

While the team was in the Philippines they—of course—noticed the rough living conditions of the families.

Rags for walls.

Dirt for floors. 

Mats for beds.

Worn out clothes.

Shoeless feet.

A Pleasant, Yet Happy Surprise

However, they also were surprised by what else they noticed.

"The Filipinos have high Christian standards and morals."

Elder Tietjen, Idaho

“Filipinos, especially the ones we were helping, have almost nothing . . . but they give everything to others and missionaries.”

Jordan, New Zealand

“What I noticed most was the willingness and determination the people have to improve their circumstances and the community effort in wanting each other to succeed.”

Jadan, California

“People take care of each other in the Philippines. The area we were in, and the families we met, were very poor. Even with little to offer, they looked out for one another.”

Megan, Utah

“Family is always our priority. Whatever circumstance we are in—as long as we are with loved ones—we can still smile, even if we only have 25 centavos in our bank accounts.”

Alvin, Philippines

“The country itself is beautiful . . . but it serves as the background to extreme poverty. Despite the circumstances some people live in, they are genuinely happy
and can find joy. They see to really understand the importance of people and relationships and have very giving natures.”

Alysha, Canada

"Filipinos are one of the most hospitable people you’ll meet. We try to share whatever we have, no matter how little we have."

Sariah, Philippines

It’s obvious to see that they touched the lives of a tightly knit community in Ormoc, Leyte. They brought hope and light into a dark and difficult living situation. They brought knowledge and power to these humble Filipinos—through pigs. But, they also came back with something, too.

These BYU-Hawaii students came back understanding that happiness is not dependent on the circumstances of life.

They came back knowing that if they can make a difference in one village in the Philippines, they are able to make a ripple effect and change the world.

Even if it is one pig at a time.

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