Do what you can to help fight poverty this holiday season and all year round!
As we enter the season of good will and giving, it’s important to remember and highlight some awesome charities in our midst who are doing incredible things for people all year round. A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending ICM’s (International Care Ministries) annual fundraising banquet to learn more about this incredible NGO. This annual banquet gathers hundreds of people who have been loyal supporters of ICM for years as well as guests who are wanting to learn more about their work.
The evening was full of inspiration as the theme was aptly called “Dream With Me”. A children’s choir who have been blessed by the work of ICM were there that evening to share their heartfelt transformative stories and sing their hearts out of the hope they have found. There were testimonies of other people who have had their lives directly impacted by the work of ICM. I was so touched to learn about how some of the children had come from dire situations and had overcome challenges from poverty to being able to pursue their dreams.
One of the stories that really touched my heart was about a courageous mother, Maria, who came on the stage and shared her story about how ICM workers gave her the tools to help her become self-sustaining. She was taught how to make snacks so she could sell them in her village and in turn be able to use the funds to help her children go to school. Her son, Melvin was in attendance and was a direct beneficiary of this success as he could now go to school and pursue his dreams of music. He performed a rap along with the ICM choir and had the whole crowd clapping and cheering for him. It was truly an unforgettable moment in the evening.
There was a keynote message by the chairman of ICM, David Sutherland, former CFO of Morgan Stanley, who gave an inspiring speech about the work they do and how the funds directly go to impacting lives every day. I learned that ICM has been around for more than 20 years. It was birthed from a need to support local workers in remote villages in the Philippines who were helping the ultra poor in their communities.
One of the statistics I learned that evening was that some of the people they serve are amongst the poorest in the world surviving on $4 Hong Kong dollars a day. Many of the families they work with cannot afford to feed themselves on a regular basis. 30% of the mothers have had a child die in conditions where disease and sickness are rampant.
Their work in the Philippines is unique in the sense that they not only help those who are in desperate need, but they also implement a program called “Transform” that aids in helping turn lives around effectively at a low cost. Transform is a 4-month program that costs HK$80 per person, and produces immediate results. Incomes increase by an average of 101%. Sickness drops by 30%. And people who had no hope suddenly can have big dreams.
ICM employs people who know these communities themselves. Their best workers came from the same background as those they now serve. Mr. Sutherland shared about how they keep close track of the results of their programs. To date they have collected 50 million data points. This allows them to see what is working best and learn more about the needs people in their programs. Yale University in the United States was so intrigued by their methods that they’ve been conducting a comprehensive survey of ICM’s work.
Being Hong Kong-based, ICM naturally takes a business approach to poverty. Hence the data points and focus on cost-effectiveness. But the empathy and professionalism of the Filipino staff combines well with that approach. In 4 months, families learn that their lives matter at the same time they learn how to start a business. They receive encouragement along with health courses that will keep their families from getting sick.
The evening was capped off with a silent and live auction that was led by a US national champion auctioneer that got everyone in the room excited to help raise funds for such a worthy cause. It was my first time at a live auction and let me tell you, it was exhilarating and encouraging to see the enthusiasm in the room of generous donors lifting up their bid cards to support ICM. At the end of the evening, ICM had raised HK$15.2m through the generous support of those attending!
ICM and the Transform program is made possible throughout the past 20+ years by the Hong Kong people. Many have donated money, their time, and have personally taken their own time to visit the people they are helping. ICM leads about 60 trips to the Philippines every year. Bankers, housewives, students and church members go to take part in the Transform program. Sometimes they teach a few lessons or they help build a latrine. They spend quality time in the slum communities where ICM works.
There are so many ways to get involved and help year round. For more information, check out their website for more details on how you and your families can help out this Christmas season.