Operation Santa Claus

Bethune House offers domestic helpers shelter and a place to rebuild

Bethune House has for the past 45 years given domestic helpers who have been mistreated or abused a place to rest, recover and rebuild

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 4:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 4:24pm

They left their homes for a job, but when they were driven away by their employers, some were left penniless and homeless.

They are foreign domestic workers who were unfairly treated or even abused by their former employers.

They want to stay in Hong Kong to battle for their rights, but they are unsure of what to do and they have nowhere to stay.

Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge provides a temporary home for these women who may have faced physical assault or been accused of theft. Some are involved in disputes over unpaid wages.

"Without a shelter, domestic workers in need would be sleeping outside churches," said executive director Edwina Antonio.

Since it was established in 1986, the refuge has helped about 500 people a year. Bethune House's two shelters, in Jordan and Sheung Wan, provide almost 40 bed spaces.

Marife, 34, who came to Hong Kong from the Philippines in May last year, was wrongly accused of theft and arson in January by her employer. A cabinet in her employer's home caught fire and some jewellery kept inside it was lost.

She was taken to the police station on the night of the incident, and was kicked out of her employer's home at 3am.

"I lost everything. I had no job and no money as I had sent my previous wages back home. I had no idea what I should do," she said. Marife has a two-year-old son.

A friend introduced her to the Bethune House shelter in Jordan, where she settled down. A criminal case against her was eventually dismissed, but the labour case she brought to seek compensation from her employer has yet to be resolved.

She and the other women at the shelter are offered classes to equip them with skills such as speaking Cantonese, swimming and self-defence. They also make handicrafts to raise funds.

"We want our services to be empowering. They can bring back their knowledge to fellow workers to help them survive in a place like Hong Kong," said Antonio.

The shelters need funding to pay for rent, utilities, medical expenses and legal fees for cases such as Marife's.

This year, the refuge is among the 18 beneficiaries which Operation Santa Claus, jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, will be raising funds for.


How you can give

  • Donate online by credit card at
  • Donate at an ATM or at any HSBC branch (account number 502-676299-001 for SCMP Charities Ltd - Operation Santa Claus)
  • You can donate with a cheque payable to "SCMP Charities Ltd - Operation Santa Claus" and mail it to: Operation Santa Claus, Morning Post Centre, 22 Dai Fat Street, Tai Po Industrial Estate, New Territories
  • Donations of HK$100 or more are tax-deductible. If you would like a tax receipt, please send the completed donation form and original bank receipt, with your name, address and phone number, to the above address.

Please call 2680 8159 or e-mail with any inquiries, or visit us online at