ACS met with Deanna Kwok, Partnership Manager at Branches of Hope, to learn about her] work in her own words:
“What motivates me to work for Branches of Hope is my passion for supporting the marginalised as they, in turn, give me strength. It is touching to hear, first-hand, from refugees, asylum seekers and trafficking survivors, their hope and determination to survive despite their traumatic experiences. I believe that everyone has a role to play in social equity and contributing to society, so I am just playing my part.
I am extremely proud of the Branches of Hope team as they have such a gift of drawing out the many talents amongst our marginalised community: from singing, sewing, jewellery making, stand-up comedy, technology and speaking multiple languages, it is inspiring to me that they want to use their talents to give back to society. Their smiles and show of appreciation tell me that I’ve made a difference.
The pandemic, especially the 5th COVID wave, posed more challenges on this community on top of their many struggles. Their lack of residency status prevented them from booking vaccination appointments which, in turn, prevented them from entering essential venues such as supermarkets due to the vaccine pass requirements. Crowded living conditions, rising costs, shortages in essential supplies and restrictive allowances (eg. their grocery card only allowing them to enter one supermarket chain) all added to their daily challenges and already scarred mental health.
I am extremely grateful that ACS’s Community Support Platform connected us with potential donors and helped raise awareness about the needs of this marginalised community.
We received timely enquiries on donating daily necessities and have been able to provide 4 offsite distribution points for food and medicine to 5 districts in Hong Kong, with more than 400 households served. It was impactful because these distribution efforts also helped to cultivate understanding by the local population.
Branches of Hope ensured that the refugee community we were serving was closely involved in the planning and execution of the project through providing input, distribution and feedback thus allowing continuous improvement and benefit. At a later stage of the 5th Wave, our office served as an additional collection point including for supermarket coupons which allowed purchases from more supermarket chains.
We continue to warmly welcome in-kind and monetary donations, in order to supply food and necessities to over 600 marginalised refugees and asylum seekers, to get them through the pandemic. In the long run, we also seek support that focuses on the health and wellness of these community members, follow up casework and workshops relating to COVID-19 and mental wellness for these adults and children.
The work at Branches of Hope never ends but to see this community stand up on their feet again via assistance from ACS and donations via the ACS Community Support Platform is worth every effort.