A Mother’s Awakening

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of clean water.

Amongst the people ICM works with in the Philippines, there is a lack of easy access to clean water and proper sanitation. As a result, unpurified water (over 50% of families in ICM areas don’t purify their water) and inconsistent handwashing lead to​ illness and spreading of infections. Diarrhoea kills more children under the age of five than AIDS, TB and malaria combined.

Jojie and her husband Elias have four children. The two eldest attend school, while the two toddlers stay home with Jojie. Elias is a seasonal maintenance worker who earns only US$100 per month to support his entire family. They live in a coastal community in a bamboo hut that does little to keep out the dampness. Their nine-year- old son, Joeffy has asthma. The wetness inside their hut makes it easy for mold to grow and Joeffy’s airway often swells, making breathing difficult. Paying for the the daily medicine that Joeffy requires puts a constant stress on the family’s finances.

When Jojie was invited to attend ICM’s Transform training, she was excited to learn how she could contribute to the family’s income. But never expected that she would also learn how to improve the family’s living conditions. Housework and cleanliness weren’t a priority for Jojie.

When the health trainer taught the importance of clean water and personal hygiene, Jojie really paid attention. While clean drinking water and washing his hands wouldn’t cure Joeffy’s asthma, it would reduce the number of illnesses the children caught. And less illness meant less risk for Joeffy. Jojie built a tippy tap in her small yard and began insisting that her children use it after using the toilet and before meals. Her neighbours saw the tippy tap and were impressed.

Her next step was to ensure her family was drinking clean water. Jojie’s water source was the municipal water line through her mother’s house connection. She began using the solar water disinfection method – filling a clean, transparent bottle with water and leaving it in full sunlight for six hours, to ensure the family’s drinking water was free of bacteria.

Jojie says her family is healthier now, and less prone to coughs and sickness.  Handwashing ensures they are not passing germs on to each other and clean water aids in the proper circulation of nutrients in the body. While Joeffy’s asthma is still a challenge, his immune system is stronger and he is growing and learning well.

Jojie and her family are not alone. After participating in Transform, 74% of families report improvements in their hygiene practices and 28% report less illness in their families.

ICM’s Transform program is a 16-week learning experience that expands the capabilities that the ultrapoor need to flourish. Weekly, ICM Health and Livelihood trainers join the pastor as they teach ICM’s interactive Values, Health and Livelihood curriculum.

By Dave Ian Saloria, ICM Communications Officer

A Long Stretch

‘Crooked Arm’ was the name Kim-kim’s classmates called him in the schoolyard.  It was an unsurprising nickname – the six-year old’s dislocated elbow hung at an obvious and uncomfortable angle. The bullying didn’t stop with name calling; unable to defend himself, Kim-kim was pushed around and roughed up in the schoolyard as well.  It got so bad that the little boy didn’t want to go to school. His parents, Aisa and Jovie, desperately wanted their son to be cured, but Jovie’s wages as a farmer’s helper only total US$33.33 (PHP1,500) a month. Like all of the families ICM works with, this meant Jovie had a daily struggle to provide even the most basic necessities for his family of four.

Medical treatment was an additional cost this family did not have the funds for. The small US$3.33 (PHP150) amount that Aisa and Jovie saved to provide medical care for their child covered the cost of the journey to the hospital and one X-ray. Doctors diagnosed the dislocation of his elbow and explained that surgery was needed to correct the dislocation. Jovie and Aisa were despondent. They would never be able to raise the sum it would take to cure their son. 

Their pastor, an ICM program pastor, referred the family to ICM’s Special Medical Case (SMC) program. Kim-kim was accepted into the program and on October 26, 2016, Kim-kim had his corrective surgery, marking the beginning of his journey of hope. His late November follow-up visit showed good improvement. To make sure Kim-kim fully recovers, ICM also approved funds for physiotherapy sessions that will restore his arm to its proper movement and function. Kim-kim has now returned to school and is able to stretch his arms open wide – full of confidence and free of pain. In his own words:

“I’m very happy that I can now move my both arms. I am not shy anymore. After my surgery I can participate well in all of my school activities, my friends and teachers are happy seeing me doing things like what other children did. And I’m no more alone. All my old friends invite me to play. I help my mother in washing dishes on weekends and she is happy every time I help her. Thank you for your help.”

In the lives of many that live on subsistent level, one medical crisis can wipe out any progress made in the fight out of poverty. ICM works with families to help them remove as many barriers to quality health care as possible. In 2015-16, ICM assisted 183 patients with surgical needs and 2,069 patients with non-surgical needs.

 

By Val Chan and Helen Carruthers, ICM Volunteers and Krishiel Ferenal, RN, National Health Services Officer, ICM

 

International Women’s Day

The world celebrates International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8. Empowering women to address social, economic and political challenges remains a goal of the United Nations. Alongside a full respect for human rights, women need to be seen as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, and security.

Approximately 97% of ICM’s Transform participants are women, the majority of whom are mothers caring for their families, living in ultra poverty. Transform educates and inspires women to make real-life positive change. Overall, ICM’s Transform participants report a 43% increase in self-worth, a 74% increase in hygiene practices and a 106% increase in income.  With greater confidence, stronger social networks and, most importantly, hope for a better future, these women are making steady progress on their journey out of ultra poverty.

Gina, a 31-year- old mother of four, is one such woman. Before Gina joined Transform, the only way she knew to earn extra money was to play a version of poker known as ‘tong-its’ with her neighbors. Invited to attend ICM’s Transform program, Gina was determined to change her family’s life. Despite having given birth via Caesarean section just two weeks before the lessons started, Gina never missed a class.

During the Livelihood lessons, Gina learnt how to cook rice and banana cakes as well as banana chips. Now, every weekend, she rises at 4am to cook and then sell these delicious snacks to members of the community. In a day, Gina can earn between US$3.49 (PHP150) and US$4.19 (PHP180). She has also learnt how to grow vegetables and Gina’s first harvest of pechay, a type of cabbage, earned her US$2 (PHP86). She is eagerly awaiting the harvest of her eggplants and okra.

Gina no longer plays cards and no longer wastes money on cigarettes. Instead she puts her money into savings so she can pay for her children’s school supplies. She also provides more nourishing family meals by incorporating vegetables from her garden. She says, “I am motivated to strive more for my family and I don’t worry about not being able to buy enough food.” From the Health lessons, Gina now knows how to purify drinking water through solar disinfection and cleans her home regularly to prevent disease. She understands the importance of proper hand washing and adds, “I don’t allow my children to touch food without washing their hands first.” Her two school age children continue to thrive academically, and she plans for her two infants to attend school as well.

ICM believes in delivering the right support, right training and right resources to unlock the bondages of poverty. Women are often the catalyst for change within their families and should be given the tools to affect transformation.

On International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says, “Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieve gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.” ICM is proud to annually provide tens of thousands of women the education and opportunity to rise out of ultra poverty.

– By Helen Carruthers, ICM Volunteer

 

How C3 Saw More

ICM Trips are a fantastic way for people from all over the globe to get a sense of how ICM is changing lives.  These trips are designed for all ages, with a range of different activities that encompass ICM’s many programs.  We encourage everyone to “Come and see” and in 2016, hosted 47 trips.  For current ICM partners, it’s a great way to connect with your sponsored community and witness the life changes you have been a part of. For potential partners, an ICM trip allows you to do some ‘hands-on’ due diligence.

Below, Daniel & Ruth Spiritosanto reflect on C3 Lane Cove Church’s recent trip, and share the highlights of some of the other attendees.

January 2-8, 2017, a group of 13 people from C3 Lane Cove Church went to Dumaguete, Philippines to see and get involved in the work of ICM there.  The group comprised of youth, young and not so young adults. During our six days there, we visited a Jumpstart kindergarten, visited some families in needy areas, spent a day with the trainers in the field at various Transform communities, and built toilets for three families.

It was a privilege to spend time in the communities we visited. The people there were very welcoming of us and appreciative of our work. It was great to see the work ICM is doing in these communities and how they partner with the local churches there in ministering and educating the people. What a privilege it has been to see and be involved in this very practical out pouring of God’s love to the needy. Seeing the ICM staff interacting with the communities in such an engaging way was wonderful. Participant David S summed up, ‘ICM is doing a remarkable work in improving the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people in extreme poverty. To see the work first hand and to experience the generosity of those we have met and of the ICM staff has been eye-opening, humbling and at times heart breaking. I have been changed and inspired by my time in the Philippines.’

As parents, we were particularly moved in seeing teenagers having an impact and being impacted through their involvement.

Reflecting on the trip, 17-year-old Simone recalls her visit to Dumaguete as, ‘an eye-opening experience that will develop more ideas for the future. It was extremely eye opening to see how people in different parts of the Philippines experience living life however they were all so happy. They welcomed us with open arms and were willing to help us in any way they could while we were helping them. Seeing the children with smiles no matter the struggles they may have like not having a toilet in their community also made me appreciate what we were doing for them even more.
Another 17-year-old, Emma, had a powerful moment when visiting a family home and saw their young son. ‘A particularly challenging encounter our group had was with a young boy of about four who had cerebral palsy. I had initially thought he was less than one-year-old. The family was banned from access to the hospital. Being given the opportunity as a group to pray for the family and provide them with access to antibiotics has stayed with me as an example of how capable we are to help. I feel so privileged to have been part of the work.’

Trip participant Jess J was particularly struck by a the attitude and story of an ICM employee.

“Her name escapes my memory but her story never will.  Not only did she come from a non-Christian, difficult family situation, she was also diagnosed with Lupus, a situation which her doctors described as ‘hopeless’. She shared how a female pastor embraced her the first time she stepped into ICM’s offices. That hug filled her with love that gripped and flipped her world upside down. She shared the complications of her condition, the medications she takes, her sensitivity to light. She explained, despite the challenges of her life, with her bunch of medication she takes each morning, she also takes a tablet of hope. The hope that Christ gives her. And its by that, she finds the courage to live each day and live each day with Christ. Like I said, her name escapes me, but her face, her smile, that shining hope in her eyes, never will.”
If you are interested in visiting ICM communities with colleagues, friends or family, please email [email protected]

 

Education & Assistance for Kian’s Family

Jennifer thought her ten-month-old son Kian James, was healthy. Kian’s father works on a farm, and his meagre income means the family often does not have enough food to eat. Still, Jennifer thought her son was growing and doing well.

However Kian was exhibiting troubling indicators – his eyes were sunken, his skin was dry, his stomach was bloated.  Like 10 percent of the people living in areas where ICM operates, Kian had a serious illness.  When the ICM team examined and weighed Kian,  they learned his weight was 2.6 lbs below a healthy range.  Jennifer was concerned but frustrated – Kian was the youngest of three children, and there was no more money to buy additional food for the family.

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Upon the advice of ICM’s Health Team, Kian was promptly enrolled in ICM’s Home-Based Feeding (HBF) program, which involved a health education program for Jennifer and fortified rice meals provided by Feed My Starving Children’s MannaPacks. At the end of the 14-week HBF program, Kian joined the 211 malnourished children that HBF’s ICM’s restored to a healthy weight from June to September 2016. Kian had surpassed the target weight set for his age and had grown from 13.4 lbs to 16.5 lbs! 

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Overwhelmed by her son’s recovery, Jennifer is grateful for the MannaPack blessing and that ICM’s health trainers recognized Kian’s illness when she was unable to.  

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“MannaPacks energized my son, and helped him achieve a healthy weight. This is a blessing from the Lord.”  

It’s Contagious In A Good Way

I realized you have changed, so I should change too.”

When Rexmar spoke these words to his wife Diana, she realised the lessons she had learned had affected more than her mind and heart.

Diana’s personal motivation earned her a spot in ICM’s Transform program. When she overheard a pastor inviting a neighbor to attend the 16-week program, she quickly joined the conversation and asked if she could attend too. Despite her many chores, her obligations to her children and the long distance between home and where the classes were held, Diana attended each weekly meeting.

Before joining Transform, Diana described herself as a gossip. This led to quarrels with her neighbors and fights in her home, but Diana never cared if she had hurt someone’s feelings. Home was especially difficult when her husband Rexmar would come home drunk. Diana would nag him about his embarrassing behavior hoping he would change.

In Transform’s Values lesson, Diana realized how her gossiping hurt people, confessed and sought forgiveness from those she had hurt. From then on, Diana made it a point to avoid gossip-focused conversations. Diana also changed her approach to her marriage. She tried to care for Rexmar and pray for him instead of nagging his about his faults. Diana happily recalls the evening Rexmar, inspired by her progress, came home early without a hint of alcohol on his breath and shared that he was going to change too.

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With the marriage healing, Diana also learned to be a better mother. She recalled when her son Rex John suffered from diarrhea. Her initial response was panic, but she soon recalled the lesson on how to prepare oral rehydration solution to prevent dehydration and help with recovery. “I was grateful for the lesson” she said. To prevent the illness from recurring, she diligently applied the other lessons she learned in her Health classes, including hand-washing and water purification through solar disinfection or boiling.

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Based on the Transform livelihood skills, Diana started a little cooking business. Making and selling banana chips was her first venture, but soon her business evolved into making and selling banana cakes. Her baking is a hit with her customers – Diana earns a weekly net income of US$14.40 (PHP720) selling just four days a week—almost eight times more than her past income selling vegetables.

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Photo: Diana and her child holding snacks made for selling

Her new business enabled her to save too. Diana joined with fellow Transform participants within her community to create a savings group. She looks forward to growing her savings, so she can buy new kitchen utensils, including a big steamer which she will use to expand her business.

“I’m glad I heard about the Transform program. I will treasure all I have gained!”

ICM’s Transform program is a 16-week learning experience that expands the capabilities that the ultrapoor need to flourish. Weekly, ICM Health and Livelihood trainers join the pastor as they teach ICM’s interactive Values, Health and Livelihood curriculum.

 

By Julie Adiong, ICM Communications Officer

 

 

 

 

A New Reason To Smile

Life is tough for Maricel.

Her family lives in ultra poverty. Maricel and her husband are rice field laborers and earn a combined monthly income of US$22.22/PHP1,000, well under what is needed to provide for their family of four. Maricel didn’t graduate from elementary school – her parents had been unable to pay for her uniform and transportation – leaving the mother-of-two feeling insecure. Her home has no electricity and Maricel’s family relies on a lamp for light after the sun sets.

There were few reasons to smile, and in a way, Maricel was grateful. The 24-year-old had a longstanding gum infection that had caused the front of her mouth to swell. When she had to speak to people she felt uneasy, and would rather be quiet than speak and show her teeth.

“I really want to become normal like other people around me. Every time I join in a group I try not to talk or smile because of my gums,I felt like everybody are staring at my mouth. I hope that someday i can talk and smile to everybody without hesitation and learn more to have self confidence.”

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Maricel felt she wasn’t normal, and being so shy and unwilling to talk made it tough for her to make friends. She wanted her life to change, but didn’t have the money for a dentist or the understanding that medical attention was needed.

When attending ICM’s Transform program, the health trainer noticed Maricel’s condition and referred her to ICM’s Medical Case Program. Maricel saw a dentist who diagnosed that she had oral fibroma, a common benign scar-like reaction to persistent long-standing irritation in the mouth. The mass would need to be removed. Maricel and her husband were worried, as they had no money to pay for the procedure. Thankfully, donors to ICM’s Medical Mercy Fund covered the cost of the operation. which occurred in August, 2016, and the follow up treatment.

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Just minutes after waking from her operation, Maricel was relieved and happy. Although her circumstances remain the same, Maricel has a new reason to smile and is grateful for her new confidence.

In the lives of many that live on subsistent level, one medical crisis can wipe out any progress made in the fight out of poverty. ICM works with families to help them remove as many barriers to quality health care as possible. In 2015-16, ICM assisted 183 patients with surgical needs and 2,069 patients with non-surgical needs.

 

By Ellen Ordonez, ICM medical case volunteer and Welme Madraga, ICM Medical Case Coordinator, Roxas

Ben’s MAD Trip Urge

Yesterday, Shore Student Alex shared his thoughts on the school’s recent ‘Make A Difference’ trip to ICM’s Bacolod base. Today, fellow student Ben examines what the trip meant to him. Our thanks to both Alex and Ben for their insights and hard work.

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I distinctly recall the thoughts racing through my head as I boarded the flight. It was a jumbled concoction of emotions… of fear, uncertainty, excitement and pride about the coming days and what we were setting out to accomplish.

We arrived in Bacolod and were greeted by the wonderfully accommodating International Care Ministries (ICM) staff. They offered a brief overview of the extensive work they do to assist the communities suffering from a lack of shelter, financial stability and nourishment. It was truly breathtaking to hear of the time, energy and resources these people so thoughtfully give up in order to make gradual steps to assist these communities to overcome poverty. This was followed by a visit to one of the slum villages, where we were tasked with distributing MannaPacks (fortified food packs) to families, and hearing of their stories. This experience was something I will never forget. I felt such empathy for these people, and felt the urge to do all I could in order to help – and that is exactly what ICM are striving to do.

 

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Over the next days, we got to work on building Comfort Rooms(CRs)/ toilets for three families in a village located near the kindergarten that Shore School sponsors.

Many of these families had children attending the kindergarten, so it was lovely to see that our donations during our Offertory Services at Chapel were making a difference. The Pastor scattered our three groups across the village. We were met with the bright, bubbly and welcoming faces of the family we were building for, and they could honestly have not been more thrilled that we were there.

The family consisted of a mother and father living with their siblings and their partners, as well as their six children. As we built, we began to form a deep connection with this family, as we talked, played games and shared laughs.

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Despite the work being grueling and at times very painful, the whole experience was worth every ounce of effort, because the joy and relief it brought to the family and their children was beyond imaginable, and something that will stay in my heart for a lifetime.

I could talk for hours and hours, preaching about the wonderful work which ICM continues to do. I was amazed by every aspect of this trip, by the people, the culture and the many experiences I came away with to make it a trip I could never forget.

 

Alex will never forget his MAD experience

Shore School students Ben and Alex and joined their school’s November 23 –Dec 1, 2016 ‘Making A Difference’ trip to ICM’s base in Bacolod, Philippines.  This first blog contains Alex’s recollections of his first encounter with poverty, tomorrow’s blog will feature Ben’s reflections.

My trip with ICM was one that I will never forget. Before embarking on the trip I had no idea what to expect or what I would see. Being an Australian studying at Shore School I hadn’t seen much poverty and knew I lived a privileged lifestyle. I wanted to give something back and help out people who weren’t as fortunate as I was and that’s why I signed up for the Making a Difference (MAD) trip.

On our first day we were introduced to the ICM staff and received a brief overview of the work they do. We then went and conducted some house-to-house visits and handed out nutrient rich rice packs. This was our first experience of the slums. As we were walking through the slums I couldn’t believe how little these people had. The families only had tiny make-shift shelters in which they contained their entire life possessions.

After handing out the food packs packs we were then taken to the community where we would be making a difference. The main goal of our MAD trip was to build three separate Comfort Rooms (CRs)/toilets for three families that the Pastor had identified as needing them the most. Fundraising in Sydney the months prior to our trip allowed us to fund the supplies needed for these CR’s. The family I was building for was so grateful for the chance to improve their hygiene that they had already commenced the hard part to help us out – the digging.

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As the day progressed we got to know the family better and I was able to see inside their home, it was a small concrete room with one bed and a couch. I was so amazed at the happiness the children had on their faces despite the situation they were living in. They taught me to not worry and complain about the little things in life but rather to be happy with what we have. If these children can be so happy yet have so little, then I can do it too.

One day, I bought some gift bags containing toys and candy. Although it wasn’t much to me I knew it would mean a lot to the family I was giving it to. The mother said that it doesn’t matter what we gave, it’s the act of giving that she appreciated. She also said that although the gifts won’t last forever, we will be in her hearts forever and she will never forget the work that we had done for both her and her family.

I am so glad that I participated in the Shore MAD trip 2016. For most people, a toilet is something they don’t even think about, however I know that the family we built the toilet for will be forever grateful and it will have made a difference to their lives.

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I have been able to give something small from me that means a whole lot more to the people I gave it to and I am so glad I was able to do it. Thank you very much ICM for all the work you do and making this memorable trip one that I won’t forget.

 

 

Mary Sunshine – ICM’s 750,000 Transform Graduate

In 2016, we celebrated the graduation of our 750,000th Transform family member. Her name is Mary Sunshine and her story is told in this video:

Mary Sunshine and her family live in ultrapoverty. Mary Sunshine’s husband, Ryan, earns about US$34.88 (PHP 1,500) per week working with tires, not nearly enough to look after the small family’s financial needs. And Mary Sunshine was so afraid to reach out to others. Starting as early as when they had children nine years ago, she would isolated herself, stayed inside the house most of the time, and focused only on the needs of her husband and children. Life was tough as it seems there are no options to change the course of their lives.

However, when the local pastor invited the 29-year-old to join ICM’s Transform program, Mary Sunshine was excited to learn about livelihood opportunities that could contribute to the family’s income, though wasn’t expecting her life to drastically change.

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During the 16-week program, Mary Sunshine developed friendships with other participants, the very neighbors she used to hide from. When the ICM Livelihood Trainer taught the group to make puto cheese (steamed rice) cakes,  Mary Sunshine thought she might be interested in baking and selling the treats. However, she didn’t have the confidence to start a business until her younger sister requested 200 small cheese cakes for a birthday party.

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Mary Sunshine’s self-worth grew when, after sampling the tasty treats, the party guests placed puto cheese orders with her. For every order of puto cheese, she earns up to US$2.32 (PHP 100).

More positive changes soon followed. Mary Sunshine joined the local community Savings Group to invest in more cooking equipment. As the secretary of the savings group, Mary Sunshine is committed to saving for her business and is also setting money aside for the family to build their own toilet.

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When Mary Sunshine gave birth to her third child near the end of the Transform program, she immediately used the infant care knowledge she learned in the Health lessons. She is careful to keep her home clean, and knows what solid food will keep the baby healthy when she is able to eat. She also knows how to treat minor illnesses the family may contract to prevent contamination or further sickness. If they have symptoms of fever I have already an idea on what to do to prevent it from getting worse,” Mary Sunshine proudly shared.

Mary Sunshine has improved not just her family’s livelihood, but her own life. The mother-of-three now has supportive friends, practical solutions, and a full schedule.

“I am really happy – especially with our savings group. And I’m excited about our business plans. Thank you very much. You did not help only a few people. You taught us how to improve our business later on.”

In 2016-17, ICM is targeting to operate Transform programs in 975 communities across our 10 bases throughout the southern two-thirds of the Philippines.

ICM’s Transform program is a 16-week learning experience that expands the capabilities that the ultrapoor need to flourish. Weekly, ICM Health and Livelihood trainers join the pastor as they teach ICM’s interactive Values, Health and Livelihood curriculum.

By Jenefer G. Sarrosa, ICM Communications Officer and Staci Atkinson, ICM Reporting Officer

 

 

 

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