Cancer Warrior starts community store with savings group

How does someone deal with poverty and cancer during the pandemic? When sickness affects someone who’s living in ultra-poverty, it seems like a no-win situation. But stories like Maria Jery’s inspire us and give us hope.


When Maria Jery joined a savings group through ICM’s Transform program, she learned the habit of saving. However, these savings were depleted when she had to undergo chemotherapy for stage 3 breast cancer. The high cost of treatment set her funds back to zero. Each chemo session cost 15,000 pesos, a huge amount for a simple sari-sari store owner like her. The chemotherapy was just a part of the battle, though; her doctor advised her to get an operation after three chemo sessions. On top of that was the growing threat of COVID-19, which made it harder to earn a living.

Fighting poverty and cancer
Maria Jery in front of her sari-sari store. The cap hides her hair, which was affected by chemotherapy.

In this seemingly hopeless situation, Maria Jery was encouraged to join ICM’s Renew program — an initiative to help the ultra-poor during the pandemic. ICM staff conducted livelihood, health, and values sessions to help participants overcome the loss of income, health challenges, and despair. Participants like Maria Jery learned how to start anew, observe COVID-19 health protocols, create extra sources of income, and restart saving with a group. 


Fighting poverty and cancer
Maria Jery received a cash grant and food packs during the Renew graduation.


Maria Jery shared that she didn’t just rejoin a savings group for her own personal gain; she also felt that it was an opportunity for her to help others in her community.

I came back because I believe that our savings group will be able to assist me, and I can also help them,” she shared.

A community helping each other

Maria Jery’s savings group, Trust Savings Group, pooled the individual and group cash grants they received from ICM and were able to start a small store selling poultry feed, rice, vegetables, and groceries. Maria Jery then offered a plot of vacant land to the group to use for the store and a community garden. 


Fighting poverty and cancer
The beginnings of a community garden


Fighting poverty and cancer with the community
Some members of Trust Savings Group during the construction of their store

Constructing the store was a labor of love. Members hired one carpenter and pitched in to finish the project. They bought iron sheets, rope, and nails using their group funds, and all other materials were donated by the members. After two Saturdays, the store was completed, and members could enjoy the results of their hard work.


Fighting poverty and cancer
Lunchtime became a community affair while construction was ongoing


Finally, open for business!

While Maria Jery’s problems are not over, the battle against poverty and cancer is a long and challenging one. What we can be sure of is that hope prevails even in the hardest times. Hope enables them to not only receive help from others but also give of whatever they have. To our donors who have given so generously to our communities, Maria Jery says:


“Thank you very much for the support you gave to our group. May you continue to reach and help more impoverished communities.”


Maria Jery successfully got through her operation and is continuing her chemotherapy. If you would like to support the work we do for her and ultra-poor communities in the Philippines, please visit this link.

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