We started our interview with a simple question: why did you first arrive in Hong Kong?
Coming from the Philippines, Kate arrived in Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper. She described her first experiences in the city, the possibility of a better life, and the fresh feeling of starting over. Leaving her family behind broke her heart, but also fueled her decision to provide them with better opportunities.
Her eyes were saddened as she spoke about her pregnancy and how she was let go from her job as a domestic worker. Unwilling to keep her, the family she worked for gave her very little compensation.
Without a job, no job prospect, or money to go back home, Kate was left with one choice; to seek refuge.
One of the main reasons domestic workers are fired is due to an unexpected pregnancy. As such, many women are faced with seeking refugee status.
Pregnant in Hong Kong
Kate opened our eyes to the realities of women who arrive in Hong Kong with the determination to improve their economic situation but are faced with hardship.
- Migrant domestic workers are vulnerable to poor employment conditions. Live-in foreign domestic helpers (FDH) especially tend to work long hours with unspecified workloads.
- Living in the same place they work hinders their possibility to mentally separate work life from private time. It’s clear the work-life balance we all seek is not limited to the corporate office or school environment.
- Especially with pregnancies, migrant women don’t often know they have access to free or affordable medical help. Leading many to hide their pregnancies and perform unassisted births.
- With the increased risk of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, many are unable to return home to see their families. Hence, the powerlessness of living in a foreign country, as well as the lack of community, can further contribute to the feeling of isolation.
As foreigners ourselves, we have often experienced difficulty adapting to a new culture and navigating a new city. However, we’ve been fortunate enough to have a community that continuously supports us. Our parents make sure we are fed, healthy, and happy; our school provides a welcoming environment to people of all backgrounds and cultures; our sports team allows us to experience accountability and trust; our friends provide us with joy and a sense of relief. We began to question, does Kate have something similar?
A chance at a new beginning
To support these women, we founded Connect Helpers, a teen-led initiative, aiming to create a welcoming community by empowering migrant workers/refugees through educational workshops, activities, and support. Our vision is to create a community where migrant minorities can thrive.
Currently, we are working on our forthcoming book “Creating with Our Hands”, which will feature recipes, artwork, and poems made by domestic workers and asylum seekers. With this book, we wish to raise awareness on this important issue along with raising funds to provide women like Kate with basic necessities.
Kate represents resilience, courage, and commitment. Despite facing difficult situations, she has been able to find a community of women who have helped her overcome her fears and insecurities. Giving her hope to continue fighting for her rights and those of her child.
While there are organizations working on a global scale, the rights of Migrant workers are still in need of support on a local scale. If you would like to follow us on our journey, be sure to follow our Instagram @connect_helpers for weekly updates and volunteering opportunities.