“We must amplify our message to the world. We must constantly challenge ourselves to get out of our personal comfort zones and share what we know with new people.”
Fourteen years ago, Laurindo Garcia was diagnosed with HIV. Having started a new job as a journalist in Singapore, Laurindo went for a health check-up in order to proceed with his work visa process. He waited patiently in the doctor’s office until the results came back: positive.
“My thoughts immediately turned to the fact that I would be fired,my visa application would be denied, and I would likely be deported,” Garcia said. “ The doctor told me I could leave and left me to fend for myself with very little guidance as to where I could find additional health and legal advice.
After his diagnosis, Garcia’s only source for identifying services and safe spaces was Google; however, it was difficult, as well as time-consuming, to discern all of the information. Having grown up a child Filipino and Australian immigrants, Garcia was subjected to racial taunts, which only worsened in adulthood when he came out as gay. Fearing others would have to go through the same hardships he faced, Garcia created a non-profit which would help marginalized groups––such as LGBTQ, people with disabilities and/or HIV-positive, and others––gain access to information on inclusive service providers, health providers, and financial services.
As part of B-Change, Garcia created a mobile application which combines technology and social enterprise to promote inclusion. Specifically, the app utilizes metrics defined by the beneficiaries that they serve. Garcia explains, “We've gone through quite an extensive process of interviewing transgender people, wheelchair users, deaf people, blind people, senior citizens, and really heard in their own language how they define what they're looking for in a service provider and whether it's inclusive or not.”
The app is not yet available in the United States, but B-Change is looking for support and possible opportunities in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Last November, B-Change partnered with Facebook to identify how inclusive and wheelchair accessible is in one of Singapore’s most renown eating areas. “We ventured out with two community experts from the wheelchair user community and and the wheelchair users saw the value in the app not only to rate places but also to help them plan their journeys more effectively, more efficiently, and more easily,” said Garcia. “It usually takes ninety minutes to find information about where to go but with our app, it took a few minutes.This can help other people who may never have thought that they couldn't go to downtown Singapore that they can indeed go there.
In addition to running his registered 501(c)(3) in the US, Garcia runs a non-profit advocacy organization in Manila, and a for-profit social enterprise in Singapore.
Good Counsel helped prepare B-Change during their transition from a non-profit to social enterprise. “You guys came in at the right time in terms of laying down the right governance systems as well as coaching our board and building the capacity of our board. The expert knowledge that's really grounded in the understanding of the challenges and really the realities of non-profits is invaluable. We've gained a lot of confidence knowing that we had you guys could covering our backs.”
It's never too early to start having these conversations, on both the government side and the legal side as well.
Any social impact angel networks in NYC––especially women or POC investors––would be more than appreciated, so please reach out to Garcia and his B-Change community.