Our Community Outreach Team recently interviewed Ms Johannie Tong, Community Relations Officer of Mission for Migrant Workers to understand how the Community Support Platform has helped the organisation in times of adversity.
1. What types of services does Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) provide to its clients?
The Mission for Migrant Workers (MFMW) was set up in 1981 as a pioneer service provider and advocate for migrants, in particular, serving migrant workers in distress. To empower the migrant community in Hong Kong, we provide our clients with emergency assistance, guidance, help, services and facilities.
2. How were your clients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our service users remained vulnerable and marginalized because of their poor working and living conditions.
In 2021, over 90% reported having long working hours, e.g. one in every 2 employees have to work on their rest days. With employers working from home and their children having online classes, the workload of migrant domestic workers had increased tremendously. The pandemic had also led to domestic violence and physical, mental and emotional abuse.
The community also suffered from illegal recruitment practices and overcharging problems, especially when the cost of hiring domestic workers soared due to travel restrictions.
3. What was the situation like during the outbreak of the 5th wave crisis?
During the 5th wave crisis, many infected migrant domestic workers were left without support, medicine, food or daily necessities during home quarantine. Some lost their jobs when their employers terminated their contracts. Having nowhere to stay, they loitered in public places. We found them in parks, public stairwells, airports and tents in hospitals.
A survey conducted in December 2021 found that the physical and mental health of migrant domestic workers were seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 70% of respondents suffered from increased stress and anxiety levels, while 25% were diagnosed with depression. At the same time, 75% of the workers were experiencing financial difficulty.
4. How did MFMW benefit from the Community Support Platform to cope with the high demand for service from your clients?
The Community Support Platform allowed us to share the needs of our service users with other resource providers in the local community. We were able to gain support in response to the high demand for services during the 5th wave.
With all the donations we received, we were able to deliver a total of 4,015 care packs to those in need from February to April this year and referred 88 migrant domestic workers to temporary shelters after they tested positive for COVID-19.
5. What are MFMW’s future plans?
First of all, we hope to offer more emergency help, including personal protective equipment (such as face masks, sanitizers and antigen test kits), flight tickets, food supplies and medical service.
We also aim to provide temporary shelter and case support for victims of abuse. Stress release activities will be arranged to help them relieve their pressure.
Our long-term plan is to raise clients’ awareness about their wellbeing so as to improve their employability. To accomplish our goals, we will organise health training courses and develop mutual support network.
6. What have you learnt about the migrant domestic workers?
I am really surprised that most migrant domestic workers still remain vulnerable and marginalized in Hong Kong. Abused and exploited employees are hesitant to complain due to different reasons, such as debt, immigration restrictions and a lack of support.
7. What message would you like to convey to the public?
I hope Hongkongers will give more empathy and support to vulnerable migrant domestic workers. Interested parties can join us as volunteers to help promote mutual understanding and respect between migrant domestic workers and their employers as well as recognising the contribution of the former. They can also donate or fundraise for us. We need their support to continue our service to assist both employees and employers.