More than a decade ago, Laurindo Garcia’s doctor told him a) he was probably going to lose his job, and b) he was probably going to get deported from Singapore. Not exactly the “It’s going to be OK” you expect to hear after being diagnosed with HIV. Instead of being offered the services he needed, he was shunned by the very system that was built to help people like him. So what was he to do? Yet for Garcia, the bigger question was what were others like him to do? What were the future HIV-positive to do?
This pivotal moment would lead him to found B-Change, a social enterprise that advocates LGBT rights and sexual health. B-Change marries the tech savvy of the youth with the concerns of the LGBT. Through the online communities they’ve formed—like support groups and Q&A forums among others—they’ve helped a ton of LGBT and HIV-positive to find inclusive medical centers, schools, workplaces, and even restaurants where they know their time and money won’t go to waste. Just think of it as a social Waze where all the jerks don’t show up on the map.
After five years of intensive research, B-Change is ready to venture into the mobile app world. The app will have three core features: 1) forums where users can share and exchange information, 2) tools for rating the inclusivity of institutions (at the same time, institutions can declare their inclusivity—to be verified by the users themselves, of course), and 3) maps and directions to the said institutions. The app will zero in on five major cities in Southeast Asia, namely Manila, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Pretty damn cool—except cool things cost money. To make this app happen, B-Change is rallying its allies from all over the world and embarking on a year-long fundraising campaign.
For his work, Ashoka welcomes Garcia as their newest Fellow and inducts him into their international network of more than 3,000 social innovators. In the words of Ashoka Global Rep and Ashoka Fellow Dr. Ashwin Naik, “An Ashoka Fellow is someone who doesn’t wait for permission to change the world.” Garcia is the sixth Fellow from the Philippines. So far.
It ain’t easy for the Filipino LGBT in a country where naturalized heteronormative standards often lead to unconscious discrimination, homophobia, and denied entrance to certain establishments with pools. So four for you, Laurindo Garcia. Four for you!
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Think you know the next Ashoka Fellow? Think you are the next Ashoka Fellow? Nominate at philppines.ashoka.org/nominate. For more information on Laurindo Garcia’s B-Change Group, head over to www.b-change.org.