City Weekend

Filipino domestic worker team to take on Hong Kong’s 100km Oxfam Trailwalker challenge

Four women set to be first group of foreign domestic helpers to take on charity hike

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 November, 2017, 5:42pm

Four Filipino women are set to become the first group of foreign domestic workers to take on a 100km charity hike challenge around Hong Kong.

Aleli Pena, 38, Beverly Martinez, 35, Marian America, 43, and Bernadette Durian, 37, will attempt the gruelling Oxfam Trailwalker route from Sai Kung to Yuen Long via the MacLehose Trail on November 17.

The quartet, who have dubbed themselves “Maid of Heart and Sole”, are training hard ahead of the event, which has raised more than HK$538 million for Oxfam projects since it was launched in 1986.

The team members are all participants in Hong Kong’s largest hiking group, Hong Kong Hiking Meetup, which is sponsoring them to enter the Trailwalker event.

Group leader Pena, who has lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, said it was difficult to find time for all of the women to train together because of their demanding work schedules, but said her British employers were “very supportive”.

“When I asked them if I could take a day off for the race, they agreed and were very encouraging about the challenge,” she said. “Aside from the physical training, I think it is about being mentally and emotionally prepared for it. I think we are inspiring other domestic helpers to do what they want to do.”

Eight memorable moments from 35 years of the Oxfam Trailwalker

Oxfam Trailwalker is one of the city’s largest fundraising events, attracting about 5,000 participants annually, with 89 per cent completing the event last year. Hikers must complete the circuit with their teammates within 48 hours to officially finish the race. Last year a team of Nepalese soldiers won, completing the course in an incredible 11 hours and one minute.

There are several large hills on the route including Hong Kong’s highest peak, Tai Mo Shan (957 metres).

Martinez, who lives with her employer in Cheung Sha on Lantau, admitted she was “nervous” ahead of the race, but said she enjoyed training by running up and down Lantau Peak.

“I prefer trail running because I feel more connected to nature,” she said. “But I am a lazy runner; it is really hard. Sometimes I just run on the roads – I try to run at least 10km every other day.”

Brenda Wong, Oxfam Hong Kong’s fundraising manager, said she believed the group was the first all foreign domestic worker team to take on the challenge.

Fancied Nepalese team blitzes Hong Kong Trailwalker field, finishing 100km cross-country race in just 11 hours

“We are glad to see more and more participants from diverse backgrounds, especially those from the underprivileged groups and ethnic minorities, are joining Trailwalker,” she said.

Meanwhile, fellow Hong Kong domestic worker Liza Avelino, who successfully conquered Mount Kilimanjaro in August, also paid tribute to the group on her Facebook page.

“This is amazing news to hear,” she said. “More of my fellow domestic workers in Hong Kong are taking on big challenges. Oxfam Trailwalker will bring out the best in you physically and mentally. It is an achievement that will boost your self-confidence, you will dream bigger dreams and want to achieve more, and by helping others at the same time will make you become a better person. The pain and discomfort of walking up and down more than 20 hills will be all worth it!”

Oxfam Trailwalker is staged annually in 15 cities in nine countries, including Australia, Belgium, England, France, India, Japan, New Zealand and Spain.