One Trip – Three Perspectives

The weekend of May 13-16, several visitors attended an ICM 101 trip in Dipolog to learn more about ICM’s poverty reduction model. Attendees fell into different age, gender, cultural and geographic segments. Here are two written reflections and one photographic impression of the weekend.


Ryan’s recollections

For most of my time on this earth I have been self-indulgent but have always wondered ‘what difference could I make’?

I never thought that a journey to the other side of the world could impact my life, my soul, and my heart.

I learned that while you can read about poverty and watch videos about it,  until you actually witness it first hand, you have no understanding of what poverty really means.

While witnessing ICM’s  Transform program at work in the impoverished communities, I saw joy and hope in the eyes of the participants as we entered their homes.  These people had so little; how could they be happy? How could they be so certain in their faith? I had come from a place of means but had so many doubts.

ICM is changing thousands of lives each year.  After my ICM 101 Dipolog trip, you can add my name to the list.

 – Ryan Jesse is from the United States of America



Helen shares

It was with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension that I found myself arriving at Dipolog airport mid May. The heat rose off the tarmac as the sun high in the sky beat down. We were all, rather charmingly, handed a large umbrella to shield us from the scorching rays as we made our way to the tiny airport terminal. Unfortunately, once everyone else had collected their suitcases, my luggage was nowhere to be seen. After some hasty enquires, I learnt that a security scanner had made my case captive but that we would be reunited the following day!

First stop was to see a young mother of 27 years old and her three children. She had completed a Transform program a few months previously. With a sense of great achievement she showed us her ‘vermi culture’ farm – where her earthworms grow and  create nutrient-rich soil. This activity enabled her to add to the household income by bagging up and selling the compost. She lived with her husband, who was employed as a waiter, her in-laws as well as her husband’s brother and family. The house, with its open fire and sparse furniture, was dark and gloomy but its occupants benefited from some electricity. However, it is regularly not available for 2-3 hours each evening because of shortages. I noticed the enormous TV with wires running across the ceiling, haphazardly seeking the power source. These families were also fortunate to share a toilet in a tiny shed adjoining the house. It was mum’s hope that she and her family would soon have enough money saved that they would be able to afford their own home. She thanked God for the ICM Transform program coming to her village.


Arriving back at the hotel felt rather surreal after seeing the poverty of most people in the region. It seemed an absolute luxury to be enjoying a hotel room with its en suite bathroom, bed and pillows. The lost suitcase no longer mattered – there was water and soap and I was the most fortunate of women!

The next day dawned, and following a kindergarten visit, we accompanied three of the kindergarten children home so we could meet their families. The first house was in an isolated bit of countryside and we climbed up a steep, dusty hill. The bamboo and wood structure with nipa roof, leant drunkenly at an angle – it looked like it would fall over in even the lightest of storms and certainly be no protection from the rain. We met Tata, 49 years old, and mother to nine children.  Tata and her husband were building another house just a few yards away – this was taking some time as building could only carry on when funds allowed. Tata and her family had no toilet and shared a water supply for drinking and washing with another home near by.

We also met Ruth and Gary who had six children – tragically they lost one child when their six-month-old baby managed to suffocate himself with a plastic bag while Ruth collected water. Gary was a fisherman who took his boat out late at night to bring his catch back in the early hours of the morning. Ruth would then sell the fish to provide the family with some income. Inside the house, there was only an earth floor, bench and an open fire with coconut shells ready to use for fuel. I also noticed an old, torn picture nailed on the wall.


During the afternoon, we heard more about ICM’s strategies in the fight against ultrapoverty in the Philippines and the partnership with many heroic pastors, striving to make life better for their communities. We were also taught two lessons from the Transform programs – one on diarrhoea (health) and one on savings (livelihood). This was in preparation for accompanying the ICM trainers the next day when we would be expected to deliver the lessons ourselves!

We were split into groups to accompany different trainers and taken to a Olingaa, a community currently taking part in ICM’s Transform program. Again, we were greeted warmly and it was with great pride that that we were shown the vegetables and flowers that had been grown with seeds given by ICM – beauty amid the chaos in the fight for survival. One grandmother, seeing my fair skin, protected me with her umbrella – such a kind act under the relentless sun beating down on us.  She lived in an overcrowded house with her married daughter and numerous grandchildren. One baby had several sores on his scalp and we alerted the ICM trainers who said they would refer him to ICM’s health services team, as they had just referred a young woman suffering from TB.

About 15 minutes before the Transform lessons were about to begin, people began to gather and sit on wooden benches and old plastic chairs. A blackboard was brought and a table laid out with props for the diarrhoea lesson. There was a sense of anticipation as the new ‘trainers’ were inspected. Most people can understand some English but we had the ICM trainers on hand to translate when necessary, although hand movements along with some laughter didn’t need translation!


At the end of the session, I gave out three bags of dried food, “Nutripacks” donated to ICM by feeding partners, to every participant. Each person responded with a ‘thank you, Ma’am’ – it felt a bit like being the Queen but seemed wrong that they should be thanking me for a basic necessity of life. However, I remembered that I represented the human face of all those people who had paid for the food and lovingly packed it before sending it on to ICM. I was also told that it was incredibly unusual for people to see ‘a white woman’ and that it would be a great encouragement to the community.

My ICM 101 trip to Dipolog was a profound experience. I had seen poverty in a first- world setting but this was on an entirely different level. However, despite all our material differences, we share a common humanity. God is love and because he first loved us, we are called to reflect his love by loving one another. ICM puts this love into action and I was privileged to share and see the change that it can bring.

 – Helen Carruthers arrived in January to Hong Kong and previously lived in London


Photos by Dave Lam, who was born and raised in Hong Kong

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


US $0

Oops! Your cart is empty

View great gifts