Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong domestic helpers seek funds to send daughter’s body to Philippines after she dies of rare disease

Two-year-old died from complications relating to Torch syndrome this week. Her Filipino parents are appealing for money to pay for the repatriation of her body for burial in the Philippines

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 5:12pm

A Filipino couple living in Hong Kong are seeking funds to help send their two-year-old daughter's body back to the Philippines after the girl died this week from a rare disease.

JB and Warlito Taleon lost Harriet Espanola on January 23 to Torch syndrome, a rare congenital condition. The acronym Torch refers to (T) oxoplasmosis, (O) ther agents, (R) ubella (or German measles), (C) ytomegalovirus, and (H) erpes simplex.

“This is a group of infectious diseases that can cause serious problems in the form of seizures, to organs not developing correctly,” says Harriet Sumner, the grieving couple’s employer, who spoke on their behalf as they were too upset to talk.

The couple and the baby lived with their employers in Pok Fu Lam, working as domestic helpers. JB has worked with the family for seven years, and her husband Warlito for almost four years. Baby Harriet, as she was affectionately known, was named after Sumner, who was also the child’s godmother.

Sumner says the whole family, including her own two boys and daughter, as well as the Pok Fu Lam community, are devastated.

Sumner says Harriet was “given a chance at life with the help of the wonderful doctors at Queen Mary Hospital” when she was born in November 2015. She says doctors immediately knew there was a problem from the shape of her head (the syndrome has symptoms similar to those of the Zika virus).

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Sumner says Harriet, whose brain had not properly developed and also had impaired vision and hearing, was in and out of hospital and suffered regular seizures. One seizure on January 21 was particularly bad, sending Harriet to hospital, where she died two days later.

A GoFundMe pagehas been set up to raise A$6,400 (US$5,100) – donations can be made only in Australian dollars –which will cover the cost of repatriating the body as well as flights back to Manila for JB and Warlito. It does not include funeral costs.

The parents are arranging a death certificate with the Philippine consulate, and hope to repatriate their daughter in the next seven days.

“We would like to offer our support by rallying together as a community and helping to raise funds which will allow them to take their precious baby home to the Philippines where she can finally rest in peace,” the fundraising page says.