HK charity group raises $11.5 million for PH's poor

HONG KONG – This was a charity banquet among Hong Kong’s mega rich meant to raise money for the Philippines’ “ultra poor”.

On its 10th year, the International Care Ministries (ICM) set a new record by raising $11.5 million for its programs in 10 communities in Palawan, Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Zamboanga and Central Mindanao. Last year it raised $11.2 million.

The annual gift-giving for the estimated 7 million Filipinos who live on US$0.50 (HK$3.89) a day went ahead on October 10 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai, despite raging anti-government protests in key parts of the city.

The morning after the banquet, an exuberant Dave Sutherland, ICM’s chair, wrote: “With the support we received last night, we will be able to reach another 500,000 people in half the amount of time it took us to reach the first half a million. Many more people will be helped out of poverty by your dedication and support.”

He said it was humbling to see too many people caring about fighting poverty that they braved “a huge protest down the street, a water main break next door and terrible traffic jams to come fill the banquet hall.”

As in previous years, ICM had nearly 1,000 mostly business people getting together to raise funds for its various projects in the Philippines, including education, health and livelihood provision in the communities it serves, as well as disaster relief.

Most of the money was raised from outright pledges by individual donors in staggering amounts, from US$10,000 to US$100,000.  

Celebrity auctioneer Kristine Fladeboe Duininck revved up the pledging session by announcing that a US Foundation would be matching dollar for dollar up to 19 donations of US$10,000 each, prompting more people to get into the act.

The rest of the money came from bids for a wide array of donated prizes, from art works to accommodations in ritzy vacation spots such as a private island in the Maldives, and a luxury apartment in Klosters, Switzerland to a luxury African safari for two.

Drawing top bids were a painting for celebrated Filipino artist Sanso, which went for $110,000; a brass sculpture by Daniel de la Cruz for $70,000; and a gold and black art work by singer Kuh Ledesma which fetched $60,000.

Ledesma, who was present at the banquet, was profuse in thanking the Hong Kong business community for their generosity. “You guys are awesome,” she said, her voice nearly breaking.

For the first time, ICM handed out awards to what it called “the best of the best” among its staff and beneficiaries in the Philippines. Some of the nominees were flown in for the occasion so they could personally receive their awards. –

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