Saving a Safe Haven for Hong Kong's Domestic Workers
The fund-raising campaign trying to keep Wan Chai's Haven shelter afloat.
For the past 8 years, the Haven has helped hundreds of domestic helpers who have been abused or thrown out of their homes without any money.
But now, one of the city's few shelters for domestic workers is under threat of closing.
The Haven is a shelter operated by religious charity New Beginnings Christian Fellowship, dedicated to providing temporary shelter for domestic helpers who have been abused or prematurely terminated and are in need of a place to stay.
“We have been self-operating from the generous offerings of our church members for the past 8 years, but the rising cost in rent and living expenses have made it almost impossible for us to continue,” says pastor Dan Borlado, who together with his wife Mary Lou are behind the shelter. “It would be a great loss to the [domestic worker] community if it were to close its doors.”
And so the Borlados have started a fund-raising campaign to try to keep the Haven going.
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Take the case of Maria, a domestic helper who was physically abused by her employer. She was given temporary lodging and legal assistance at the Haven until her case was resolved. “She suffered from substantial injuries and was taken to the doctors. We took her in while she reported the case to the Labor Department," says Borlado. "Eventually the employer, who didn’t want the case to blow up, settled the case."
"We have come across many helpers that ended up wandering in the streets in the middle of the night, without a place to stay, because they were fired so suddenly."—Dan Bolado, the Haven
In fact, cases of abuse are rare at the Haven. Many of the domestic workers who currently seek help from the shelter have been terminated from their contract prematurely, with employers failing to pay them the required amount in lieu. The disputes are filed with the Labor Department, but the process usually takes one to three months. During this time, the helpers are left with no place to stay. Some are even forced to leave Hong Kong without resolving the case, unpaid for their work.
According to the Employment Ordinance, either party may terminate a Foreign Domestic Helper employment contract by giving no less than one month’s notice in writing or by paying one month’s wages to the other party. The current Minimum Allowable Wage payable to foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong is just $4,210 per month.
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“We have come across many helpers that ended up wandering in the streets in the middle of the night, without a place to stay, because they were fired so suddenly. They came across members of our church and we brought them back to stay with us, which was how the shelter started,” explains Borlado. The shelter is located on Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, a location chosen because of its proximity to the Immigration Tower and the Philippines Consulate General.
Speaking to the shelter's current financial situation, Borlado says that the organization has not reached out to the government for funding, despite being an accredited charitable organization. “There are a lot of constringent requirements that [cause us to] back off, given that we are a religious group. It will be tricky explaining our intentions for seeking financial aid," he says.
Dan and Mary Lou Borlado's fund-raising campaign has the goal of raising $150,000 to support the continuation of the Shelter. “The campaign will keep running in the coming six months to a year. So far we have attracted some aid from NGOs in the city, including Feeding Hong Kong, which provides the shelter with food and drinks." Borlado says.
He appeals to the whole community for help. “I call on anyone or any organizations who have a concern for the plight [of domestic workers]. You can donate anything: food, clothes, or money. It will be of great help to the cause of the shelter and domestic helpers who are in need of it.”