No need for a scarf

Nineteen-year-old Gem had to stop attending school and enter the workforce the year she turned 13. One of seven siblings, Gem’s parents had separated when she was nine. Gem’s mother went to work in Manila, but would only send money home when she was employed. Gem’s father worked as a seasonal farmer, and his income was not enough to provide for his seven children. Struggling for survival, the children quit school and took any job offered to them.

At age 14, Gem was working as a house helper in Negros Occidental when she was diagnosed with thyroidism. The family was unable to afford treatment. Over the next five years, the swelling on her throat increased and made eating difficult and Gem was increasingly tired. She continued working long hours, because her family relied on her income. Constantly ashamed of her appearance, Gem attempted to hide her neck with scarves, but she could not hide her anxiety about the future – would she ever be healthy enough to marry and have a normal life?

As is often the case for families in remote villages, health care was inaccessible due to geographical and financial concerns. Gem had initially hoped that her employer would be able to sponsor her treatment. When she learned that was not an option Gem began to lose hope of ever regaining her energy or living a normal life.

Gem’s sister heard about ICM’s medical mission partnership with Watsi from her pastor. Watsi is a global funding platform that enables anyone to donate as little as US$5 to directly fund healthcare for people around the world. ICM has been privileged to partner with Watsi since 2015.

Upon hearing that the operation and medication would be covered, a grateful Gem began making plans for her post-operation life.

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Today, over six months post-surgery, Gem is healthy, working a new job and incredibly grateful that she only wears scarves when she wants to. “I feel relief, I am healthy and my problem is solved. Thank you for my free operation!”

 

By: Val Jovani Canda, ICM Communications Officer

International Day of Families

The United Nations has declared May 15th as the annual International Day of Families.  The theme for this year’s day is: Families, education and well-being.

The Day highlights the importance of all caregivers in families, be it parents, grandparents or siblings and the importance of parental education for the welfare of children. It focuses on good practices for work-family balance to assist parents in their educational and caregiving roles. Good practices from the private sector in support of working parents, as well as youth and older persons in the workplace are also highlighted. In particular, the Day is to raise awareness of the role of families in promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and youth.

Maritess enrolled her two middle children, Athena and John Vincent, in ICM’s Family Academy in April. 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. In Maritess’ case, the whole family is involved.  When Maritess is busy looking after her youngest children, her eldest daughter, 14-year old Mara Queen, will take turn in teaching Athena and John Vincent. Her husband, Rakim, is also happy about the family’s new found love for education, encourages them all to continue and is determined they will get to primary school.

The likelihood of the children attending primary school is strong: trial results of Family Academy 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.

Maritess has been amazed at the children’s capacity to learn and her ability to teach. On the verge of tears, Maritess said that her children started respecting her when she joined Family Academy. Just two weeks into the program, she saw a leap in their knowledge and felt how her children were becoming more connected to her. She adds that before Family Academy, her children would rather be out and in someone’s house to watch television. Now, they are staying at home, and look forward to learning about numbers.

By  Meng Valientes, ICM Senior Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolute Beginner

With an infant at home, Angie was hesitant to agree to attending ICM’s Transform program. She thought the responsibilities of motherhood and the unpredictability of babies would make it too difficult to attend the weekly sessions. However, Angie was excited at the opportunity of changing her family’s income and signed up for the program.

The 24-year-old’s commitment paid off when she began learning new skills and new ways to tackle problems. Especially since the birth of their son, Churt, the young family from Bacolod was living on a very tight budget from the money Angie’s husband, Leonel, earns as a seasonal farm laborer. Typical of those living in ultra poverty in ICM areas, Angie and Leonel earn less than US$0.50 a day.

Through the Values classes, Angie learned some key lessons on forming positive relationships. Angie says, “I realized that nagging my husband is not helpful to either of us,” which led to her changing her behavior and attitudes. Angie admits that she is now a better wife, mother and friend, adding, “Whenever I cannot control my anger, I make sure that I apologize for my mistakes.”

As a new mum, Angie’s primary concern has been for the health of her son. She sterilizes her son’s bottles, purifies water and ensures he has a nutritious diet by serving him vegetables and rice from ICM’s food packs. The Health lessons also taught Angie how to care for Leonel. When her husband burned his arm with boiling water, Angie knew to place the arm under cold running water rather than immediately placing something on the affected area. 

Embracing the challenge of the Livelihood classes, Angie used her newly acquired cooking skills to make and sell sticky sweet rice cakes, adding US$6.12 (PHP300) a week to the household income. “I have started to become financially independent,” says Angie. The family now has enough for their daily needs and has begun saving, enabling Angie to expand her business by investing in new equipment.

Transform has given Angie the ability to visualize a healthy, financially secure and loving future. She says with gratitude, “Thank you for helping mothers like me who have just started family 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 Irene V. Secuelan, ICM Communications Officer

Long Distance Education

Carrying her three-month old daughter, Arlyn walked four kilometers round trip to her weekly Transform classes. However, the 30-year-old did not mind travelling the long distance.  I didn’t mind the difficulties because I wanted to learn,” said Arlyn.

With four children, one of whom has cerebral palsy, it was tough for Arlyn to leave home, but her son’s medical costs were draining the family income and she needed to earn money. She was counting on Transform to give her the knowledge on how she could make money for her family’s needs. Her husband, Leo, makes US$20 (PHP1000) a month working as a forest ranger, an amount that does not cover the family’s needs. They live in a small home constructed of wood and scrap materials, and their source of light is a gas lamp. 

Each week, the Puerto Princesa, Palawan housewife would fetch water, do laundry and cook breakfast before heading off for the Transform classes. Arlyn’s self-confidence grew as she applied what she learned in the Transform sessions.  She started to earn a monthly income of US$30 (PHP1,500) from a small business cooking and selling puto cheese (steamed rice cakes with cheese). Finally earning an income meant the family did not have to go hungry and the children could attend school.   

Her new business enabled her to save, giving her whole family hope and certainty for their future. Arlyn is proud about growing her savings—which reached US$5 (PHP250) by the end of the program. She’s focused on building enough capital to diversify the snacks she sells to earn even more money.

After learning basic but effective health and hygiene tips in the program, Arlyn now diligently ensures that her kids wash their hands before meals and after using the toilet. “I am now more concerned for my children’s hygiene,” she said. Garbage from her home is now segregated and properly disposed of to prevent the spread of infection. When someone in the house catches a common illnesses like a coughs and colds, Arlyn can use herbal remedies to heal the ailments. 

And with her newfound knowledge and skills, Arlyn offers her insight on where these came from. Since Transform, Arlyn has a positive outlook, despite her situation She is hopeful that the future will bring better things than she has today. She is grateful for Transform, but even more so for people like you, that brought Transform to her.

“Thank you for your big heart for people like us!”

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 Pamela Luna V. Rabe, ICM Communications Officer

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

*http://www.who.int/mental_health/policy/development/1_Breakingviciouscycle_Infosheet.pdf

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

 

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