Meet our Intern – Clemence Leung

Clemence was a part of the Access to Healthcare (A2H) team during her internship at PathFinders. Let's hear her experience:

What have you learnt from this internship?

The internship was a reality check on the situation migrant women and their children had been facing in Hong Kong - most of PathFinders’ clients are current or former domestic workers, and it is not uncommon for them to find difficulty in disclosing their pregnancy to their employers in fear of losing their jobs and possibly their largest source of income for their families. Although these migrant women are legally entitled to maternity rights, such rights are easily exploited, as the mandatory live-in requirement does not allow separation from work nor guarantee enough privacy, many domestic helpers often work for unreasonable hours and are expected to be on-call any time. There have been numerous examples of employers terminating contracts with domestic helpers unlawfully upon knowing about their pregnancy, exposing them to crises — an expired working visa translates to their loss of access to public healthcare during this physically vulnerable period. Having lost their income and accommodation, they may have no choice but to live underground fully dependent on their partner or acquaintances. Unable to seek help through official channels, they may be at higher risk of abuse, for example violence inflicted by a cohabiting partner. In more extreme cases, some may even resort to taking drugs under influence from “friends” with questionable intent as an attempt to stop the misery.

During my time at PathFinders as an intern, I have seen how Case Managers juggle existing cases and new intakes at the same time, assisting clients step by step from surrendering to the Immigration Department to receiving public healthcare and legal assistance. Their ever-increasing workload reveals that there are still many individuals in the community of migrant women who are hidden from plain sight and desperate for help. The work PathFinders has been involved in is a testament to the importance of NGOs in reaching marginalised groups in society, providing as much support as possible with finite resources when gaps still exist in governmental policies.

Seeing clients forge through difficulties when the odds seem to be against them, I have also been encouraged by their bravery to not give up easily whenever I face future hardships, and to persevere in my goals until satisfactory results are attained. The two months I spent at PathFinders are one of the most unforgettable learning experiences I have had beyond the classroom, and it is an honour for me to have been a part of PathFinders’ mission.

What activities have you been participating in?

My main duties were to accompany clients to their medical appointments, help them navigate the healthcare system and facilitate their communication with healthcare staff. Although there had been restrictions for accompanying clients to certain consultations, such as those at Maternal and Child Health Centres, due to infection control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic, I was able to assist with the follow-up, for example guiding clients through the hospital admission process for further checkup of their child. Arranging visits for clients to birth control clinics of The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong was also my responsibility, as introducing contraception to clients was an important component of their journey with PathFinders.

Apart from assisting A2H healthcare professionals during appointments with clients at the PathFinders Health Centre, I participated in various tasks under the guidance of Case Managers and staff in the Education and Supplies team, which included translation in client meetings, buying baby pack supplies and creating educational leaflets for clients. Clerical work and data entry were also a part of the duties I undertook.

What kind of change in society do you hope for?

Migrant women, particularly foreign domestic workers, are a significant community in society, and we shouldn’t take for granted the many sacrifices they have made to support our economy. It will be a welcoming sight if members of the general public become more aware of their struggles and respect their basic rights. Hopefully, such awareness will provide a driving force for the improvement of related governmental policies.