• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 2:01pm
NewsHong Kong

Domestic helpers give up day off to feed the hungry

Food programme volunteers spend their Sundays aiding poor, elderly and homeless

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 3:02pm

Aida Pagaling's alarm clock rings at 5am on Sunday. The domestic helper quickly packs her cooking utensils, puts on her best Sunday dress and leaves her employer's apartment in Happy Valley for a bus to Sham Shui Po.

When she steps into the Cornerstone International Church of God, about 30 other Filipinos are already busy preparing to cook for a crowd, carrying bags of rice and a massive rice cooker onto the balcony.

Together with a dozen Chinese volunteers, they have prepared more than 100 rice boxes by dusk, when a nearby restaurant owner, known as Ming Gor, delivers discounted dishes.

Then Pagaling and her fellow workers carry chairs and plastic tableware to the space under the Tung Chau Street overpass - home to many of Sham Shui Po's hundreds of street sleepers - where dozens of homeless, poor and elderly people wait for a free meal. Some are in wheelchairs or on crutches, some have brought children as young as four.

"I was surprised when I first visited the overpass. I didn't know people lived like that in Hong Kong," said Connie Cruz, a domestic helper who has been in the city for 20 years.

The Street Sleepers Registry kept by the Social Welfare Department reported 595 homeless people in March. However, according to the Society for Community Organisation, there are 1,200 street sleepers citywide, half of whom are in Sham Shui Po.

Cruz and Pagaling joined the free-food programme in April, after a new Cornerstone Church, opened in Sham Shui Po.

The programme started off small, with bread donated by fast-food chain Maxim's. Then fitness trainer Brian Cha, who broke a Guinness World Record by hitting 8,000 golf balls in 12 hours earlier this year, volunteered to raise funds for the meal boxes. Each box costs about HK$10 to HK$13 each.

Now the church serves more than 100 free meals every Sunday in Sham Shui Po and has a bread-sharing outreach programme in Victoria Park and Sha Tin.

"It's a great blessing to all, not a burden, though we are not a rich church," Pastor Daniel Miguel Villa said. "It brings joy to our sisters - we are not just here to be helped by the Chinese, we are also able to help them back."

But the team is not always greeted with kindness. When the Filipinos tried distributing bread in Sha Tin last month, an old man shouted at them in Cantonese.

"He said: 'You all go home! Go back to the Philippines,'" said Tommy Tam, one of the few Chinese members of church.

Villa said he felt hurt. "I can't blame him because those bad things happened," he said, referring to the 2010 Manila hostage crisis and the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in the South China Sea in May. "But I hope there will be a little bit more mutual understanding."

Tam shared Villa's sentiments. "If we can entrust [helpers] with our most valuable possession, our children, we can be more compassionate."



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This article is now closed to comments

Being a Filipino comes with many strings attached - not all of them are pleasant. But, in recent years, God has been showing me that it is part of His plan for my life - that I be born as a Filipino. Because he intends to use me - to serve Him - as a Filipino.
To do this, we MUST rise above the stereotypes, put to rest ungodly traditions and reclaim the virtues of what it means to be a God-fearing nation.
This year, CORNERSTONE CHURCH dared to desire to "Serve the Nations" (note: not just the Filipinos) and God in His divine providence has opened doors for us! Truly, there is NO WAY we could accomplish this on our own.
I see my brothers and sisters in Christ - eager to serve and I am proud. This is what it means to be THE Church of Jesus - a Church Without Walls. Let us not tire of doing good! There is no higher calling indeed!
I want to end by sharing 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
"For consider your calling, brothers (and sisters): not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."
Hi Andrea, thanks for a well-written article. What moves our church - most domestic helpers and a few Chinese and other nationalities, to do this not only on Sundays but also during the week days, is a love for people made possible by the love of God. We have received so much from him, we have been blessed with good work and income in Hong kong, and now we want to give back by sharing to some needy and sometimes forgotten people. Our message is simple: they are not forgotten. Because of Jesus, they are seen, remembered and cared for.
It is good what you are doing, but there is no nation in God. We are all individuals with our own relationships with Him.


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