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Pitch for Hope 2023 awards Bohol savings group 100K to Grow their Small Business

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SINAMAWOVA Savings Group, represented by their leader Marilyn Veler, won a P100,000 grant for their mushroom growing business at the Pitch for Hope 2023 Finals on March 29, 2023 at the Wynnwood Hotel. They were followed closely by the First Runner-up Koronadal’s Golden Flower Savings Group with their banana chips with wild honey business and Second Runner-up Bohol’s Himakas Barbaza Savings Group with “Squashey Veggies” noodles and snacks. They bested 588 business pitches from savings groups hailing from Palawan, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Pitch for Hope is a program by the non-profit International Care Ministries (ICM) where active savings groups across 33 provinces in Visayas and Mindana compete to receive grants of up to P100,000. Members of the savings groups all come from ultra-poor communities. They are formed by the graduates of ICM’s poverty alleviation program Transform.

This friendly competition supports promising savings groups’ micro and small businesses by providing them with working capital to purchase assets, fund operations, and grow their investments. 

“It is good for Savings Groups to experience this kind of competition because it improves their storytelling skills as it trains them how to tell any potential investors the heart behind why they started the business and why it matters,” shared Jeriby Malatin, ICM’s National Prevail Manager who manages the network of savings group leaders.

ICM CEO David Sutherland and ICM Executive Director Deanna Sutherland

The businesses pitched in this competition ranged from gravid crab farming and coconut dehusking services to tablea and native salabat powder. The 12 semi-finalists have been given an initial P15,000 cash grant to begin executing their business plans. How well they used their initial investment was part of the judging criteria at the finals. 

The semi-finalists were also given two virtual mentoring sessions by volunteer mentors from BPI Foundation, Security Bank, and EO Philippines. The semi-finals were held in the ICM office judged by ICM’s Chief Strategy Officer Michael Coman, ICM Chief Administration Officer Arlene de Leon, and ICM Board of Adviser member Manolo San Diego, with representatives from ICM’s corporate partners Ut Rafael of Airspeed, Huey Silo of Robinsons Land Corp., Patricia Nermal of Greenhills Christian Fellowship South Metro, and Vincent Grey of Pay Remit.

The judges for the finals were ICM CEO David Sutherland, BPI Foundations’ Executive Director Owen Camayo, Security Bank Vice Preside Nikki Lizares, Bank of Commerce Assistant VP for Consumer Protection Raymond Gonzales, and TV Host and Broadcaster Christine Bersola Babao.

A Business to Help Others

Marilyn shared in her pitch that they started the mushroom growing business after Typhoon Odette. The typhoon had destroyed most of her savings group’s assets so when the Department of Agriculture offered a livelihood seminar on mushroom farming, their association was chosen as one of the participants. “After three days of training, we immediately applied what we learned,” Marilyn said. “Until now, we continue to grow and produce mushrooms.”

SINAMOWOVA (San Isidro Native Maker, Worker and Vendor Association) will use their grant to expand the business, build a bigger building for growing the mushrooms and a second one for their laboratory. As their business grows, they will be able to help their local community by providing employment and business opportunities. 

“Thank you, ICM, for this amazing opportunity,” Marilyn said upon receiving her savings group’s prize. “With this grant, we will be able to help more people in our community.”

Sustainable Income as a Way Out of Ultra-poverty

One of the biggest challenges facing families in ultra-poverty is a lack of steady income. One of the ways International Care Ministries (ICM) empowers them to meet this challenge is to earn, save, and invest through Savings Groups.  

ICM is a non-profit focused on helping the ultra-poor, those who live on less than P25 (US$0.50) per person per day, at the very bottom of the economic ladder. Through its Transform Program, ICM provides a pathway towards sustainable progress with values and health training, and livelihood opportunities.   

Then, families in ultra-poverty are encouraged to join a Savings Group where they start by saving as little as P10.00 a week. This relatively small amount is the first step to saving little by little. Over time, they can invest their savings in small, low-risk businesses or a group enterprise, or use it for home improvement or medical needs. 

ICM’s vision for the ultra-poor is that every person would have a dependable income, access to savings, and people around them to support and encourage new economic opportunities. 

To learn more about ICM’s work with savings groups and its Transform program, visit

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