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PathFinders’ New Beginnings in the Year of the Rat

At PathFinders, we’d like to send a big THANK YOU to our donors and partners for supporting our vision and mission of every child in HK receiving a fair start in life! We’re looking forward to all the ways we can do even more for the children and women we serve in the year of the rat!! We wish all families a happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

In this new year, PathFinders will continue to strengthen collaborative work with ALL stakeholders – FDWs, employers, employment agencies, policy-makers, academics, the community, mass media and other partners. To see the number of children and women falling into crisis decrease, we need to increasingly focus on prevention by raising further awareness, providing education and offering practical guidance to both FDWs and employers. Below is a highlight of the THREE NEW PROJECTS we are focusing on this year. 

Train the Trainers for Foreign Domestic Workers

After more than a decade of meeting the needs of mothers, babies and children in crisis, we are increasing our focus on trying to prevent the root-causes of crisis. We are continuing to deliver education to the FDW community with our key strategic partners – like the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Indonesian Consulate and Philippines Consulate.

In addition, to establish a sustainable community outreach model that is led and delivered by FDWs for FDWs, we are empowering FDW community leaders through our Train the Trainers workshops with knowledge, information and skills training to expand our outreach, amplify our messages and sign post our services.

Our Train the Trainers workshops empower and mobilise FDWs as trained Ambassadors to educate other FDWs about Maternity Protection and the importance of making well-informed life decisions whilst working in HK. Each Ambassador is provided with bespoke training to enable them to professionally deliver PathFinders’ messages with confidence, accurately, confidentially and in a way that is culture sensitive. Ambassadors are then mobilised with tailored materials to hold outreach events and workshops within the community, and required to regularly update their PathFinders Manager on sessions conducted, numbers of participants reached and to provide evaluation highlights. Collectively these new Ambassadors can reach wider and deeper than the PF team within the FDW community, helping us to scale our outreach.

Employer and Employment Agency Outreach

Although pivotal, employers and employment agencies have been relatively unreached by PathFinders over the past decade, as we primarily needed to focus on meeting the needs of those in crisis. Now, with Client Services well established and recognising a need to offer practical guidance to employers on how a FDW’s pregnancy should be successfully managed in the best interest of the child, we have launched a 3-Step Guide in partnership with Helpwise.

When a FDW’s pregnancy is discovered or announced, often an employer’s initial reaction is one of shock, betrayal and confusion. Their minds race with multiple questions and concerns. She came here to work, why did she get pregnant? My husband and I work full-time. Can she cope with caring for my young children when she is pregnant? How will we manage when she is on maternity leave? These are all very real concerns that without careful thought and planning can result in a FDW being terminated and ultimately her child falling into crisis.

Finding out their FDW is pregnant can create a unique challenge for employers. Both the FDW and their employer are likely experiencing an array of emotions about the future. It often takes a lot of bravery for a FDW to tell her employer she is pregnant. For those whose pregnancies were planned, it can be a joyous anticipation. But for many others, love scams and the lack of reproductive health knowledge can lead to a FDW’s unexpected pregnancy. When that happens, the FDW may share the employer’s feelings of confusion or anxiety. ‘My Helper is Pregnant’: 3-Step Guide For Employers, our practical step-by-step guide seeks to support employers through their emotions and onto a path that gives them, their helper, and their household the solutions they need.

Home Country Integration Programme

For many FDW mothers, returning home as a single, unemployed mother with a mixed-race child can be a daunting prospect. To avoid the fear and potential persecution of returning home, some choose to overstay – becoming a hidden part of our society with no access to public services. Others seek asylum to access very minimal social welfare support, but an uncertain future for themselves and their child.

Currently in Hong Kong there are hundreds of children born to former FDWs who are seeking asylum. Some of these children have been in HK for many years while they wait on the appeal process. This process is likely to speed up in the near future. With less than 1% of asylum cases being approved, these children, who have never visited their mother’s home country or speak their mother’s tongue, will, sooner or later, face deportation often with little notice. 

To identify, support and assist the mothers  and children who are swept up in this process and ensure they are physically and emotionally equipped to make their journey home with confidence, we are further expanding and strengthening our relationships with key strategic partners. We are collaborating with the UNHCR and multiple HK based NGO partners to identify and assist these mothers and their children while they remain in HK, and with the IOM and in-country NGO partners to provide assistance and services on their return home, such as temporary accommodation and family mediation.

To find out more, or to get involved in our existing and new projects, please get in touch at info@PathFinders.org.hk.


Universal Children’s Day 2019

Written by Vivian Cheung, Legal Case Manager of PathFinders

Today is Universal Children’s Day, an important date signifying the world’s commitment to protect all children.

60 years ago, on 20 November 1959, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which recognises, among other rights, children’s rights to education, play, a supportive environment and health care.

30 years ago, on 20 November 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention) took effect as the first comprehensive document setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all children regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status. It also sets out how adults and governments should act together to protect the rights of children. With 196 state parties, including Hong Kong who ratified it in 1994, the Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

At PathFinders, we believe these rights should be protected and respected, and that all children should have a fair start to life. Sadly, the majority of children born to Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) are often deprived of their basic human rights (including the right to timely birth registration, education and health, family life, and access to justice) because of their immigration status. Unless one of their parents is a permanent resident in Hong Kong, they are not be entitled to permanent residency. Some FDW mothers’ contract was terminated when they fell pregnant, and some of them subsequently overstayed and sought asylum due to a fear of returning to their home country with a child born out of wedlock. For the mothers who are still in their employment contract, their children can only remain for the duration of such contract (each lasts two years), and as their mothers are required to live with their employers who have no obligation to house the children, arrangements for their care become very challenging.

PathFinders has a passionate, non-judgmental, dedicated team to help these children and their FDW mothers in desperate need, to overcome financial constraints and language barrier, obtain birth certificates and proper documentation, access the courts and healthcare, and receive necessary vaccinations as well as education. We also educate and guide the FDW mothers from when they become pregnant of their maternity rights and options so as to empower them to make the best decision and choose the best path for their children.

Today is the day to celebrate the advancement the world has achieved for all children. However, it is also a day to remember there are still children in Hong Kong who might yet to have their rights realised, and we should do more to protect them.


Taking care of our clients’ mental health

The World Mental Health Month, held in October each year, gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health. 

This year, PathFinders supported the Green Ribbon Campaign organised by the OCD & Anxiety Support Hong Kong (OCDAHK). Green is the colour of mental health and represents balance, strength, and hope. Wearing green reassures sufferers that they are not alone and breaks down stigma associated with mental illness.

Lisa Ringner-Näckter, Access to Healthcare Programme Manager of PathFinders, said, “Due to all the struggles that our clients are facing, their mental health is often compromised. We’d like help them by early intervention and follow up arrangements with external professionals if needed. When we spot a client is at risk of depression, we offer to take her to Maternal and Child Health Centre for follow ups.”

“To help those with no access to public healthcare, we collaborate with Central Health Medical Practice and receive valuable guidance from Mind HK. The Follow ups are crucial not only for the mother, but also for her to be able to look after her newborn child,” she said.

 


The ‘Train The Trainers’ programme

On August 25th, 2019, the first participants of our “Train The Trainers” for Foreign Domestic Workers (FDWs) Programme successfully completed their training to become PathFinders’ ambassadors in the FDWs community.

Recently launched by our Community Engagement team, the aim of the Programme is to equip FDWs with key knowledge on love scams, maternity rights and prevention of unplanned pregnancy, as well as effective communication skills, so that they can reach out and support the wider FDWs community with crucial and accurate information for making well-informed decisions.

In the final session of the 6-hour training, we were honoured to have Virgilio Lumicao, associate editor of The SUN HK, Catherine Gurtin, our CEO and Lara Fabregas, our Board Member, as our panelists who provided feedback on the participants’ presentation on what they had learnt.

Our new ambassadors, many of whom key leaders in migrant worker groups and initiatives in Hong Kong, will continue to receive our guidance in their endeavours to engage, educate and empower fellow FDWs through outreach activities.