JC ENGAGE Video Storytelling Winner – PathFinders Hong Kong
Describe PathFinder’s journey. How did you get to where you are today?
Established in 2008 on the belief no child should be born alone and deprived of an identity, basic supplies, healthcare and shelter, PathFinders has improved the lives of over 8,300 babies, children and women.
Despite legal protections, hundreds of expectant Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) mothers are unlawfully fired, pressured to resign every year because they, and their employers, simply don’t know what else to do.
When this happens, the MDW immediately becomes homeless and within two weeks, when her working visa expires, she loses access to public services, including healthcare vital for prenatal screening and newborn care.
For those unable to return home, their children are typically undocumented, stateless and lack access to essential services including healthcare, shelter and education.
Given limited care options for young children and the elderly in HK, MDWs have become a critical source of support for many households. HK currently employs 370,000 MDWs, many are women of child bearing age and lack access to reproductive knowledge and services.
Every day, we intervene during crises to care for children born to migrant mothers in HK and ensure they have a Nurturing Care Plan in place during the most critical years of early childhood development. We empower migrant women to make well-informed life decisions and prevent future crises, and we equip employers with information and practical solutions to enable pregnant MDWs to enjoy their right to maternity leave and maintain employment. We also engage with the general public and policymakers to increase understanding, acceptance and support for children born to MDWs, and create systemic change by ensuring policies protect pregnant MDWs and their children.
We believe with imagination, collaboration and a commitment to strengthening protections for the children we serve, practical and affordable solutions can be found. To this end, PathFinders engages in dialogue with HKSAR Government Departments, Consulates, United Nations agencies, academics and other key stakeholders to ensure policies are enforced and continue to protect the children and mothers we serve.
Can you share with us a memorable and compelling story?
We met baby Dian when he was just 7 days old. He and his mother Gema had been sleeping rough at a park in Yuen Long.
Gema had been unlawfully terminated from her job as a Migrant Domestic Worker just a few months earlier, leaving her homeless with nowhere else to go. The cold weather, lack of hygiene and improper care had caused a serious infection at the top of baby Dian’s legs.
It was fortunate that an acquaintance spotted Gema and Dian and brought them to our attention. We immediately took Dian to a hospital where he was admitted for emergency treatment.
When Dian was discharged after several days, both Gema and Dian lived at our shelter and we ensured that Dian received a birth certificate.
The feeling of helplessness and guilt for not being able to keep her newborn baby safe distressed Gema, and we offered counselling to ensure she was adequately equipped and ready to take care of Dian on her own.
She learnt how to provide basic care for her baby such as breastfeeding and bathing. Gema and Dian eventually returned to their family in Indonesia to start a new beginning where there’s hope and a secure future.
What is the key message that you want to send to your audience?
We believe all children deserve a fair start in life. Currently there is a strong and predominantly negative social stigma surrounding a Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) pregnancy in HK.
PathFinders hopes to establish greater empathy with the public, employers and MDWs and to celebrate all working moms in HK – including the many MDWs who are mothers too and spend most of their children’s lives working away from home to save for their education and future.
In addition, and to prevent a crisis, we seek to empower and educate MDWs to make well-informed life decisions while working in HK, and working to establish win-win solutions for employers to be able to offer MDWs job security, while maintaining their own household needs if/ when maternity leave is required.