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A Night of Hope: A Charity Auction Raises Almost P81 Million For Ultrapoor Filipinos

Hong Kong’s biggest givers gather to help the Philippines’ marginalized communities.
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“There are a lot of important events happening in the streets [of Hong Kong],” ICM chairman David Sutherland says with a solemn expression, “but the poor in the Philippines don’t know about what’s going on.” Sutherland opens his data-compacted spiel for the night in a banquet hall in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on October 24, 2019. The country’s social unrest had Sutherland and the rest of the International Care Ministries team wondering if they would push through with the charity banquet, which is the largest in Hong Kong, just a month before it took place. The show had to go on. And thankfully, it did. 

ICM has been working to improve the condition of poverty in remote areas of the Philippines for close to three decades. Its main area of concern is the ultrapoor, the staggering demographic of over seven million individuals that live on $0.50 cents (or P25) a day. Over the years, the non-profit has developed a program called “Transform” that equips these Filipinos with the education and the tools they need to secure a livelihood and savings for themselves and their future generations.

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Photo by HANNAH LAZATIN.

While ICM and its army of pastors and volunteers host interactions with these communities throughout the year, the annual banquet is where the financial magic occurs. The organization is coming from a record-breaking performance in 2018, and on top of that, last year’s charity banquet was named the best benefit auction in the world. Many might have wondered how they could possibly top these feats in the years to come. Sutherland introduced part of the answer in the form of his own brother, Dale Sutherland, a former pastor and ex-undercover police officer. As the newly appointed president of ICM USA, Dale is tasked with the important mission of replicating ICM’s progress in the Philippines to aid the ultrapoor of Uganda. Slowly, the group will touch lives in a whole new location, accounting for three percent of ICM’s efforts in 2020.

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ICM chairman David Sutherland, Daphne Kuok, and Philippine Consul General Raly L. Tejada
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.

Considering the delicate situation that the country is in and its impact on the economy, the country’s most generous givers were present that evening. In one night alone, ICM raised $1.6 million (or close to P81 million) through the silent auction, the live auction, table sales, and other donations. This trails behind last year’s whopping $2.1 million, but ICM’s chairman considers it an admirable success.

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Elmer Borlongan's "G.I. Sheet" was one of the lots up during the silent auction and was valued at HK$30,000.
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.

The great thing about attending an ICM banquet is the chance to get directly involved with the lives of those in need. While guests dined on a fabulous three-course dinner, the hosts introduced a part of the program called “Pitch For Hope,” where Transform groups present their business ventures to a panel of judges and the audience. Guests that night were acquainted with three groups from the Philippines: The Tacal Savings Group, a rice reseller; Hope & Care Savings Group, a meat distributor; and Grace Vale Savings Group, which dealt cleaning products. With gusto, the presenters made their cases. Once the audience had time to discern, they cast their votes and the Tacal Savings Group came out on top and took home a prize of $2,500. Both members from General Santos donned intricately beaded traditional attires, which were passed on to them from their ancestors, we learn. Hope & Care was awarded second place with a prize of $2,000 and Grace Vale with $1,500.

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Just before dessert was served, David Sutherland introduces Kristine Duininck, a U.S. national champion auctioneer who was on her sixth year with the ICM banquet. Charismatically, Duininck led the Moment of Giving, the portion of the night when guests were free to donate to the cause altogether. The starting bid was at HK$800,000, which promised the givers a chance to transform 10,000 lives. As the night went on, bid card after bid card went up, and our auctioneer was dancing as she called out the numbers. Finally, we reached the final increment of HK$8,000.

A guest raises his bid card.
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
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Afterward, the call for the Medical Mercy Fund was on at HK$40,000. What’s astonishing was the sheer number of people that the fund has helped throughout its establishment. In 2018 alone, there were 274 recipients. Among them was a little girl named Linalyn, who had been born with severe clubfoot, leaving her deformed and unable to walk. The surgery that she received from the fund completely transformed her life. To get to school, she would have to endure crossing through a river and climbing down steep hills every day. The journey is now made even more bearable after treatment. She appears before the roomful of guests, a happy but once shy little girl, who is now one of the top students in her class.

Star Ferry donated a 'priceless' life ring as part of the silent auction lots.
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
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One of the night’s highlights was up next—the live auction. There were three main lots up for grabs. Duininck started by presenting four owner’s box tickets to the Champions League football match between Inter Milan and Barcelona. This comes with a tour of San Siro stadium, business class tickets from Hong Kong to Milan, and a two-night stay at the Sheraton Milan. The crowd The second was an African safari in Uganda and Tanzania, complete with luxury accommodations and tours, plus a peek into the ICM efforts in Uganda. The final lot was a glimmering set of South Sea pearl jewelry from the Philippines. A long strand of golden pearls was accompanied by a pair of earrings with 0.92-carat diamonds and a pearl ring flanked by two kite-shaped diamonds. Amazingly, a female guest kept her bid card up until she was bidding against herself as the values went higher.

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Photo by HANNAH LAZATIN.
Auctioneer Kristine Fladeboe-Duinick
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
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The next morning, we receive an update from David and Deanna Sutherland through Daphne Kuok. It informed friends of ICM that 13 donors agreed to donate HK$80,000 to reach the double matching that Fund Us Faithful offered. Post-banquet, support continued to pour in and everyone was, no doubt, still reeling from all the excitement and the uplifting feeling of hope from the night before.

Andrew Choi, Hillary Shih, Chelsea Chau-Kuok, Daphne Kuok, and Justin Kuok
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
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Anthony Golamco and Elizabeth Golamco
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
Javier Carballo, Patricia Inoturan, Christine Carballo, Steve Phan, Melissa Bacani, Alice Lonfat-Chu, Yvette Rodriquez–Schroeder, Stephane Michel, and Josh Schroeder
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.
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Patricia Openshaw, William Openshaw, Michael Openshaw
Photo by COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE MINISTRIES.

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