In this Meet our Intern edition, say hi to Bohesa Won! Bohesa supported our Social Welfare team at PathFinders last year and recently graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University with a B.S. degree in International Politics. She was awarded a Princeton in Asia fellowship (2019-2020) and will spend the next year in Vietnam with the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, an international NGO dedicated to preventing road crash fatalities and injuries in low- and middle-income countries.
Bohesa interned for the Mothers’ Protection Programme where she supported Case Managers in working closely with migrant worker women to promote access to a more secure future for themselves and their children. She was also able to attend several meetings at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, which provided the opportunity to understand how legislators shape policies on the treatment of foreign domestic workers and their children.
Bohesa’s experience opened her eyes to how PathFinders plays an often overlooked, but pivotal role in the health of communities: providing direct interaction, emotional support, and access to information to individuals who may otherwise be restricted from these resources due to economic, language, or other cultural barriers.
What activities have you been participating in?
As an intern for the Mothers’ Protection Programme, I assisted Case Managers who worked closely with migrant worker women to promote access to a more secure future for themselves and their children. Over the course of the internship, I accompanied clients to hospitals to ensure their healthcare needs were met, conducted home visits with healthcare representatives to check on the welfare of migrant women and their newborn babies, and assisted clients in accessing services at various government organizations. In addition to these weekly responsibilities, I had the chance to help manage the organisation’s shelter for clients in need of temporary housing. With other interns and PathFinders representatives, I also conducted public outreach efforts to local migrant communities to promote awareness of PathFinders’ resources and services. During the internship, I was also able to attend several meetings at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, which provided the opportunity to understand how legislators shaped policies on the treatment of foreign domestic workers and their children. As the scope of these responsibilities demonstrates, interns at PathFinders have the opportunity to see both how diverse and critical the activities of a single organisation can be in promoting the welfare of an underserved community.
What have you learnt from this internship?
One lesson I gained from my internship with PathFinders was the importance of understanding the interaction between distinct policies and the impact of this relationship on the security of individuals. For instance, in Hong Kong, employment and housing policies can interact to enhance the vulnerability of foreign domestic workers. Under the current law, domestic helpers are legally bound to live in their employer’s home, an arrangement which can produce a number of negative consequences for the helper. As is commonly the case for many PathFinders clients, an employer may illegally terminate a domestic helper when she becomes pregnant during her term of employment. In turn, she may quickly find herself both unemployed and homeless if her employer fires and subsequently removes her from their home.
As an intern with PathFinders, I had daily opportunities to directly assist migrant women who had found themselves in extremely difficult circumstances due to the interaction of such policies. In doing so, I was quite moved to see how NGOs played an active role in supporting individuals affected by policy gaps and inadequate government support. During a home visit to one of our migrant clients and her newborn child, I accompanied a PathFinders worker who was one of the only healthcare representatives to check in and see how the new mother was doing. Over the course of the visit, our PathFinders healthcare worker carefully assessed the condition of the mother and her newborn, relayed important childcare information, and worked with the mother to ensure she had access to basic supplies such as diapers and baby bottles.
It was in moments like these that I saw how NGOs bear enormous responsibility in promoting the security of neglected communities. Organizations like PathFinders play an often overlooked, but pivotal role in the health of communities: they provide direct interaction, emotional support, and access to information to individuals who may otherwise be restricted from these resources due to economic, language, or other cultural barriers. My experience with PathFinders also encouraged me to reconsider the importance of adopting an empowering approach to individuals and groups that are simply classified as “vulnerable.” As I saw through our engagement with clients, empowerment can take many forms. For instance, communities can learn about their rights to healthcare and legal resources through accessible information or learn about opportunities for their own advocacy and engagement in policy spheres.
I have left PathFinders excited to understand how stakeholders can cooperate to enhance the health and security of communities. My experiences at the intersection of social work, public health, and legislative advocacy inspired me to apply to a service fellowship to work abroad in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I plan to apply the lessons I learned to promote road safety in the developing world. It is my hope that my experiences with PathFinders can continue to inform my efforts to elevate the public health challenges of various communities. Through the cooperation of stakeholders across sectors, we can promote solutions which enhance the well-being of increasingly broader sections of the population.