The owners of Atmosphere Resorts, Matt and Gabby Holder, saw an opportunity to give back to the community that they now call home. But far from just giving handouts, the couple opted to offer knowledge and opportunity to help locals help themselves. What followed is a testament to the intelligent philanthropy of a conscientious couple, as well as the determination and desire of the community around them to work hard to improve their own situations. The couple made it very clear that they didn’t feel like Atmosphere Resorts did much at all, but merely served as a catalyst, a spark that lit the way for the local Filipinos to follow, if they chose to do so.
Atmosphere Resorts soup kitchen
Seeing a need in the community, the Holders hired an expert at establishing successful soup kitchens in impoverished areas. They engaged the parents of local children to volunteer in the kitchen so they had ownership and responsibility in the success of the endeavor. The kitchen has grown to serve 80 children a day, providing a balanced, nutritious lunch five days a week throughout the year.
Located about 30 minutes away from the resort, the kitchen is fully funded by Atmosphere with the occasional contributions given by guests who’ve toured the kitchen on one of the resort’s twice-weekly visits.
In order to encourage education, every day that a child attends the local community school they receive a ticket for a free meal at the kitchen, and nearly all of them participate. The kitchen weighs the kids to make sure their weight is healthy, as well as providing toothbrushes, floss and school supplies. All of the food is sourced locally, further contributing to the betterment of the community.
Crafts from recyclables
Even the local dump sparked an idea in the minds of the Holders. They noticed that some locals were rummaging through the dump, looking for anything of value. With some assistance from outside resources, they taught many of the local women how to make jewelry from recyclables such as aluminum cans, magazines, leather and cotton. They’ve turned a dump into a source of beauty, fashion, and most importantly – income.
For the parents of the children in the community school, the jewelry they make has become the sole means by which they support their families. This endeavor has become a thriving business, Lumago. The women of the group create new designs and continue to improve upon the quality of their products. All of their items – bracelets, necklaces, keychains, purses and bags are for sale in the Atmosphere Boutique.
To expand upon this initiative, Atmosphere Resorts is providing a platform for a sewing co-op so that new members can increase their skillset and tap into additional markets for income.
One of the latest ventures for the community is what Atmosphere has called the Piggy Project. The resort gives local families piglets to care for and raise to adulthood. The families provide the food and care for the pig and, when it’s fully grown, they sell it at the market for a considerable profit. The families are able to pay Atmosphere back for the cost of the piglet (no profit for Atmosphere), take some profit for themselves, and then invest in purchasing another piglet.
After having children of his own, Matt felt as though the local schools were lacking, and that the better educational facilities were too far away and far too expensive. Beginning with just three students in their own living room, the Holders started a private school on Atmosphere Resorts property. That living room has grown into a Philippine Accredited school with 30 students, which is also a member of the Council of British International Schools. The school has a significant tuition cost, but it’s far less than the cost of any of the private schools in Manila. It’s a non-profit school, funded by Atmosphere and the tuition costs. Having a quality school nearby allows expats with children the opportunity to live and work in the area, as well as giving locals another option to the more expensive Manila schools. Right now, the school serves children up to 10 years old, but they are aiming to expand the age group, as well as increase the number of children from 30 to 60, with a maximum of 12 students per teacher. To the Holders, the best part of the curriculum is that it’s transferable to other countries, so children attending here are not behind any other country’s standards.
Credit where credit is due
The Holders feel strongly that the success of these endeavors is owed entirely to the people who benefit the most from them. They feel that it took so little effort on the resort’s part to put things in motion since the people of the community were eager to jump onto the opportunity. Matt in particular aims to speak to other resort owners across the world and share these ideas and the means by which their resort was able to see them to fruition. He hopes to put to rest to rest the misconception that this kind of philanthropy is difficult and expensive, and that resorts across the world will follow in Atmosphere’s footsteps.
Check out our video of Atmosphere Resort