Family Academy – Learning for all

Mother-of-three Engely is delighted with the knowledge her daughter, Charmy Angel, has gained in the three weeks she has been attending ICM’s Family Academy.

Engely hopes a stronger academic foundation will give Charmy Angel a confidence that Charmy’s older sister lacked when she started primary school. “I want my children to learn as early as possible, before they begin school,” Engely said.

If children don’t receive a good foundation before they start school, they are more likely to be absent and to drop out of school in the future. When children drop out of school, it is very difficult for them to ever achieve their potential or realize their dreams, and many children who don’t graduate from school will remain in poverty.

ICM’s Family Academy is a way to level the playing field so that poor children are not disadvantaged when they start school. Family Academy takes a two-generational approach to early education over an eight-month program. A personal coach, educational supplies and training empower parents to become their child’s first teachers through a math and phonics curriculum.

Through home teaching visits twice a week, along with a Values, Health and Livelihood curriculum for parents, Family Academy gives children a great start to their academic life by preparing them to enter the public school system. Invested and engaged from the very beginning of their child’s learning, parents encourage their children to start and remain in school.

The trial results are positive, revealing that 83% of parents feel better equipped as parents, and after completing Family Academy, children show a 635% improvement in math skills*, which means that Family Academy graduates start school with above average math skills.

Engely and Charmy Angel are experiencing these same results.

Just two weeks in to the Family Academy, Charmy Angel can identify numbers and their place in the number line. Engely, who takes time each day to teach her daughter, has also found the program beneficial to the mother-daughter relationship. She shares, ‘I was busy with chores and didn’t know what I would talk to Charmy about. This teaching gives me the opportunity to spend time with my daughter.’

Within days of the parent-child coaching at Family Academy, Engely noticed her daughter was changing. ‘Before, Charmy Angel was very stubborn. But after just two weeks of me working each day with her, she will rest her body against me, and she talks to me, not just her friends. I’m excited about our relationship now and not worried about what she is thinking, because now she stops and tells me. It’s so different and so much better!’


*2016 study conducted by Chinese University Hong Kong

Jumpstart and ICM Graduations

Over the weekend of March 30-April 3, ICM Jumpstart graduations were held across seven ICM bases. Dressed in caps and gowns, 2, 275 children marched across the stage, shook their teacher’s hand and received their diplomas. It was a happy and memorable way to close the children’s chapter of Kindergarten studies and move ahead to the learning that awaits at primary school.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lehmkuhler


As the 2016-17 students formed the final Jumpstart classes, a bigger celebration was ICM’s graduation from operating Jumpstart Kindergartens.

Jackie Banasing, ICM’s Director of Education, started ICM’s Jumpstart program in 2005-06 with three kindergartens in Koronadal. At that time, only 46% of poor Filipino children were able to attend kindergarten. In the 12 years Jumpstart has been in operation, 19,629 children living in ultrapoverty have been given the necessary academic foundation to thrive in primary school.  While exact numbers are not available, reports indicate that almost 93% of Jumpstart graduates are still attending school.

At the Jumpstart graduations, the base leaders spoke to the audience, ‘Our goal from 12 years ago has been largely accomplished. Today, 92% of poor Filipino Children are attending kindergarten. Together, we have met a need that was dear to all of our hearts: providing a great educational foundation for poor children who might not have had the chance to attend kindergarten. But today, as the Department of Education continues to expand and excel at their universal kindergarten roll out, ICM has seen that the need in this area is not as great as it once was. We are overjoyed today to be able to pass the baton to those who can carry on this great work.’

As the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd) fully takes over the care and nurturing of kindergarten children, ICM has taken the decision to redirect our resources to the next area of greatest need. The education mission remains the same: to provide a great academic foundation that gives children a lifelong love of learning. ICM’s new strategy, Family Academy, will support and work alongside DepEd, by focusing on early childhood education at the family level, to prepare children to enter school.

Family Academy takes a two-generational approach to early education over an eight-month program.  A personal coach, educational supplies and training empower parents to become their child’s first teachers through a math and phonics curriculum.

Through home teaching visits twice a week, along with a Values, Health and Livelihood curriculum for parents, Family Academy gives children aged 3-5 a great start to their academic life by preparing them to enter the public school system. Invested and engaged from the very beginning of their child’s learning, parents encourage their children to start and remain in school.

The trial results are positive, revealing that 83% of parents feel better equipped as parents, and after completing Family Academy, children show a 635% improvement in math skills*.

Tomorrow we will introduce a Family Academy participant, Charmy Angel, and her mother!

*based on a 2016 study by Chinese University of Hong Kong

Shifting the Darkness

The theme of 2017’s World Health Day was Depression.

Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. According to the latest estimates from WHO, more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

Evidence indicates that depression is 1.5 to two times more prevalent among the low-income groups of a population*.

Teresita felt much older than her 44 years. Working alongside her husband, Rodolfo, as a sugar cane worker earned the couple a combined monthly income of US$63. Their eldest son, who still lives at home with his wife, contributes some of the money he earns as a sugar cane worker to the household income, but there was not enough to comfortably provide for the family of eight. With Rodolfo’s wife expecting a child, Teresita felt despair.

This visual courtesy of Philippine Star

‘In my heart there was so much chaos, sadness and pain. I felt hopeless.’

Rodolfo and Teresita had sacrificed so all their children could attend school, but that sacrifice had led to their children working alongside their parents in the sugarcane field. Would her grandchild grow up and become a worker in the fields without income as well? As Teresa’s depression and frustration grew, her energy and patience waned.  Teresita stopped cleaning her home, it became dirty and unkempt, with garbage cluttering the surfaces.

Despite feeling lethargic, when Teresita heard about ICM’s Transform program, she chose to attend. It was a 3o- minute walk to each lesson, but Teresita needed to try to change the future it seemed her family was heading towards.

Over the next 16 weeks, Teresita learned Values, Health and Livelihood lessons that allowed her to make improvements to her relationships, attitude, home and income.  ICM provided her a leaflet that shared how she learned to cure her children’s illnesses with herbs and natural medication, like garlic and Lagundi plant. Teresita recalls, “It was really convenient having a copy of the herbal medicines the health trainer gave.”

Teresita learned the importance of hygiene in the home. Because the lessons did not make her feel guilty or defensive, she started to follow the suggestions on keeping her home clean and felt like she was accomplishing something when her home was tidy.  “The trainers reminded me with the health lessons without the hint of judgement after seeing my house. And because of that I started to tidy things up outside and inside of our house. It felt good and I can breathe nicely having a clean house appreciating the importance of having clean surrounding.”

After the livelihood lessons Teresita eagerly applied her learnings especially the skills in cooking, seed banking and planting vegetables. Although she did not have a flat garden area, Teresita bought seeds for a garden in order to provide her family healthier meals. She recalls, ‘My vegetable garden is not that big and the area is sloping down the hill, still I managed to plant vegetables and eventually serve them to my family. My children loves eggplant so I did seed banking to be able to continue plant eggplants in my garden.”

Teresita began rising early to make five different snacks that she sells among her community.  “I am happy I started selling snacks, with our little income working as farm laborers we cannot afford buying good food or some needs in the house. I am really motivated to continue in selling snacks appreciating what I have earned from this. I can now provide enough allowance to my children, and serve better food during meal time, I can now buy pork, chicken and ham, I have already bought the utensils for my business and have saved money.”

Teresita’s days now have purpose and she has hope for her family and their futures. She continues to sell her snacks and grow vegetables, with the aim of expanding her business and moving her entire family to better jobs and a better life.

In 2015-16 ICM was able to provide help, inspire hope and create change in 34,706 ultra poor families across 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 Julie Jane D Adiong, ICM Communications Officer


Hands-on Learning

“I never thought the program would be this fun,” said Jeramie of ICM’s Transform program.

Jeramie had many reasons why she was too busy to attend Transform: she was working in the fields with her husband and helping earn money for the family, she was pregnant with her third child and taking care of her nephew whose parents has moved abroad to find work. Jeramie’s days were full and tiring.  Typical of those living in ultra poverty in ICM areas, Jeramie and her husband Jose earn less than US$0.50 a day.

However, many of her friends had signed up to attend Transform, so the 34-year-old tagged along to the first session as a visitor. By the end of the first lesson, Jeramie had learned so much that she enrolled in the four month class. Even on days she had to work out in the sun helping with harvest, Jeramie made sure she went to each of the weekly meetings.

Her determination paid off. The only income for the family before was during harvest season and occasionally when Jose could find other work. Jeramie wanted to keep her two children in school and provide for her newborn. As for her nephew – Jermaie loves him as her own and wants him to stay in their home.

After Transform, Jeramie’s weekly income increased by US$6.00 as she learned to cook and sell snacks in her community.

She has been able to put US$0.40 a week into the savings group she started with fellow Transform participants. With her personal savings, Jeramie was able to buy cooking tools like a steamer and pots so she can cook and sell more.

Proudly, Jeramie reflects on her entrepreneurial endeavor, ‘My new business helps me big time because through it I can provide food to my family and it strengthens my relationship with them.’

Transform’s health lessons also equipped Jeramie with more knowledge to help her prevent and treat minor illnesses in the family. She learned about signs of tuberculosis, and how herbs and leaves can be used to cure or manage illnesses. To prevent disease, she now boils water for the family to drink.

Her husband, Jose, also quickly saw the benefit of Jeramie’s learning. She confessed to being irritated with her husband—especially on days when he could not find work.  Instead of nagging him, Jeramie applied the lessons she had learned in the Values classes, “I started to try and understand and support him,” she said. In response, Jose started helping prepare snacks with Jeramie.  The couple’s marriage is stronger now that they are spending time together and working alongside each other.


Jeramie also is surrounded with a strong support system to encourage her. ‘Since my neighbors and friends attended the program, we decided to discuss and share our ideas.’ Her savings group will help Jeramie save for her children’s education and ensure Jeramie’s nephew can stay with the family.

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 Rizia A. Ambrosio, ICM Communications Officer


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.


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! 

160411-07 _KJSago_GEN (5)

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.  

160411-07 _KJSago_GEN (13)

“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.


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.


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.


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





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