Hong Kong-based NGO raises more than P80 million for poor Filipinos

Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2019 05:01 AM

Representatives from the Tacal Savings Group, Hope and Care Savings Group and Grace Vale Savings Group who flew from General Santos City and Panay Island to pitch their ideas before the audience of potential investors in Hong Kong on Oct. 24, 2019. Jan Yumul

HONG KONG—For over 25 years now, Hong Kong-based International Care Ministries (ICM) has been raising funds, lifting hundreds of thousands of Filipinos out of poverty through its various, holistic-approach programs.

During its annual banquet held at the convention center in Wan Chai on Oct. 24 against the backdrop of anti-government demonstrations that has dragged on for months, the charity raised more than HK$12 million (US$1.6 million) or about P80.9 million, which would benefit communities in General Santos City and Panay Island, among others.

The theme of this year's banquet was "Standing on Hope." 

In an email sent to the ICM board and supporters the morning after the event, chairman and CEO David Sutherland, also former chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley for Asia Pacific, said overall funds raised this year "were down from last year's records of HK$16 million," but he did not stop short of thanking all those who came to show their support.

"But this year was a challenging environment and last year was a record year. So we are very, very pleased, and very, very thankful! Hard to believe that a month ago, we were worried about whether we should host the ICM banquet at all. We genuinely consider this year's event a resounding success! And you all made that possible. Thanks!" the email read. 

More than 60 items were available for silent auctions, including 3 live auctions that covered 4 business class tickets to watch the Champions League, which will see giant teams Inter Milan and Barcelona go head to head in Milan, Italy this December; an Africa extravaganza, which will allow lucky winners to enjoy a 5-night safari and visit ICM's new work in Uganda; and South Sea Pearls from the Philippines. 

Live auction items that were sold for half a million Hong Kong dollars. Jan Yumul

The international Christian charity says more than 1 million people have graduated from its "Transform" program since 2009, where 146 percent have experienced an increase in income, and 27 percent have experienced reduction in illness. 

"Transform" is a holistic education course that first identifies people who need help the most. A local pastor uses poverty scorecard to guide the selection.

Once a week, for 4 months, ICM "Transform" trainers join the pastor and community volunteers to teach the interactive curriculum. 

These interactive curriculum include equipping the participants with small business skills that cover planning, budgeting and marketing, livelihood options, savings groups, family and health care, as well as education.

The "ultra-poor participants" live on an average daily income of 28 cents, with 64 percent of them living in cramped homes, 30 percent of them not having electricity while 51 percent don't purify water, among others. 

To date, ICM has more than 10 bases in the Philippines. Adding to the list this 2020 are Davao and Tacloban. 

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, the ICM chairman is hopeful the organization will reach 300,000 Filipinos every year even as it sets its eyes, for the first time, in Africa. 

"We've grown quite large. In addition, for the first time, ICM has historically only been in the Philippines and we're about to open our very first program in Uganda. And so I think Filipinos should be quite proud of that because we're able to take strategies that are around poverty reduction and export them to other parts of the world," said Sutherland.

One of the highlights of the event was the segment "Pitch for Hope," which had a "Shark Tank" show spin. 

Products from Red Rope, an independent handicraft cooperative based in Bacolod, providing jobs to Filipino women in poverty. Proceeds from the handicraft will provide food for malnourished children. Jan Yumul

Three finalists from the Hope and Care Savings Group, a meat processing business; the Tacal Savings Group, a rice retail and animal feed business and the Grace Vale Savings Group, which sold cleaning products, got to pitch their business ideas before 3 judges and attendees of the 2019 Hong Kong banquet guests who in turn were given the opportunity to invest in their chosen group. 

The Tacal Savings Group from General Santos City emerged as the winner, which garnered US$2,500 (P125,000) for their pitch, followed by Hope and Care's meat business for P100,000. Third-placer Grace Vale group garnered P75,000.

The event also did not run short of success stories. Such is the story of Linalyn who was born with clubfoot. Through ICM's Medical Mercy Fund, she was able to receive surgery in Hong Kong last year.

"So over the last 10 years we probably have raised maybe P3 billion for the Philippine from Hong Kong donors. Donors from Hong Kong have been quite generous. But in the current environment, Hong Kong is really... it's really a big challenge and so most of the other charities in Hong Kong have cancelled their banquets recently. But ICM decided to move forward," said Sutherland.

"We've been doing this big banquet for 15 years. We did one in the middle of the big typhoon that closed the city but people still came. We did one in the Umbrella Revolution where they were having... had protests just 2 blocks away on the night of our banquet and we still had a full house. We've had many different things but people are still faithful," he added.

The breakdown of the funds raise include HK$1.7 million from table sales; HK$500,000 from the live auction; HK$1.5 million from the silent auction; HK$6.1 million from the Moment of Giving; HK$300,000 for the Medical Mercy Fund; HK$200,000 from the sales of stuffed piggies, including general donations, as well as HK$2.1 million of the available matching funds. More donors have come forward post-banquet.