Check out one family’s adventure in giving back to disadvantaged communities
International Care Ministries (ICM) is a non-profit organisation that brings education, food and medical care to people living in poverty in the Philippines. Through its long-term staff on the ground, ICM walks alongside families to teach lessons in values, health and livelihood in order to deliver hope to the poorest communities of the Philippines. Each year, ICM has visitors from all over the world to see their work, meet the people and bring encouragement.
Hong Kong mama, Sabrina was looking for opportunities to get herself and her children involved in community work. The full-time working mum-of-three, who leads a hectic life as a corporate finance lawyer shares about her journey with ICM.
Tell us how you got inspired to go on a service trip with your family.
Hong Kong kids are so lucky and don’t really appreciate the things they have in life. After school activities, enrichment classes and holidays as well as nutritious food… a lot of kiddos don’t see these as privileges, but rather as part of their life. I wanted to broaden their horizons, get involved in community work so that they can appreciate different aspects of their life more and see how they can give back to the society. Kids need this perspective: that the world has people who need their help.
How did you get involved with ICM?
I had heard of ICM before, I had been to their website and I knew of people who had been on the trips. The Easter Trip was during my children’s school holidays so it was very convenient. Since the Philippines is close, the flights were short and easy. ICM took care of the booking. Although I was very tied up at work just before Easter, I made the conscious effort to go on the trip (thanks to my supportive colleagues and understanding clients!) – we needed to experience other people’s lives.
What did you do to get involved? What kind of training do you need?
My kids are between the ages of four and 13 but we were all encouraged to take part in the whole process. After arriving in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Philippines, we were taken to the local base. There, members of the local staff explained to us ICM’s core programs and how these programs benefit people living on less than US$0.50 a day. Our group was given instructions on the Transform lessons we would help deliver the following day. We were also shown where the manna packs are stored. My kids were asked to help move some manna packs that were soon to be delivered. Following a tour of the base’s garden, we also learned how program participants are taught organic farming to supplement their family’s income and provide healthier food for their families.
The next day we were split into groups, and visited slum communities where ICM is running programs. In a small van, we went with local staff to villages where ICM is active. Upon arrival to the local slum area we were shown around. We met the local pastor, saw the church and met many members of the 40 families that formed the satellite village.
It was time for the communities’ Transform meeting, so we delivered the lessons we had been taught the previous day. The local staff provided translation as we taught how to form a savings group, basic hygiene lessons and livelihood opportunity lessons. My kids helped deliver manna packs to pregnant mothers and malnourished children participating in ICM’s home-based feeding programs.
We also helped out during a three-day Kids Camp which was more time of learning and observing. As students began their summer holiday, which starts in April in the Philippines, ICM brings 100 kids together to have fun and celebrate Easter as a community. I was able to serve as a family leader, and saw the children become more engaged in the team activities or expressing themselves through songs, skits and artwork. The Kids’ Camp graduation, was the highlight of the trip as all the kids, even the ones who were shy at the beginning were so happy.
Can you share about an eye-opening experience that happened during the trip?
I was taken aback at the size of some of the children we met. Having a 13, a nine and a four-year old; I am used to 13-year olds being around a certain size, the same goes for my two other children. But you could really see how malnutrition had affected the children in these communities. They don’t have access to proper food and their parents don’t know how to earn a living. Although the children were of the same age, they were so much smaller than my children, sometimes one foot shorter. You could really see the difference on how nutrition has an impact on their kids’ growth.
What were the reactions of your kids when they were in these communities?
At first, my children were in shock, but soon they started looking around, taking in the circumstances these happy people we were meeting were living in. And I could see my eldest’s heart was touched. He began interacting with people. One lady asked him to hold her baby and he did. My second child was not really into it, he was a bit distant with the adults. But after a while, an old football was brought out, and my two boys joined the local kids and played a game. They were speaking different language, had vastly different circumstances, but they were playing together. As for my youngest, she was enveloped by the children’s village through their clapping and chasing games. On the way back to where we were staying, the ICM staff expressed her gratitude in us joining the trip as she feels encouraged by our support in ICM’s work.
How has this trip changed the way your children view their lives?
We left the slums knowing this exposure to a different life would have an impact on my children. During some reflection time, my eldest shared his feelings and observations that he had about the local people. His insights, appreciation for his own life as well as understanding as to why poverty exists was moving. I was so glad he had come to the conclusions that I had hoped for.
How has this trip changed you in ways you never thought it could?
I have greater empathy for my helper. I am indebted to her especially for the freedom her working for my family provides me. When I showed her pictures of the village and the tiny bamboo homes with neither electricity nor water supply, she said she had grown up in a similar home. It made me appreciate her even more as it was certainly humbling to see the living conditions many of our helpers come from.
After the trip, my family and I made the decision to sponsor an ICM Kindergarten. By participating in the camp and seeing ICM’s work, I realised that I can help, even though I am far away.
What would you say to families who want to get involved in some way?
After I went on the trip, some people said, ‘Why did you do this? I don’t understand’. They were worried about the living conditions, and I had to let them know we were in a clean and basic hotel, we had good food, good company and that it was very safe. I told them it was a fantastic experience, and that children didn’t need another glamorous vacation.
My advice to parents is to bring your children so they can see and experience the hardship people in other countries have. This is reality and people in privilege don’t appreciate the hardship; our mindset is too narrow. Teach your child empathy and compassion, and show your child that they can make a difference. If you want to raise leaders who can make an impact on other people’s lives, they need to understand what the world’s problems look like first.
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.