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Bethune House on edge as resources dry up

17 April 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

A shelter for distressed migrant women workers in Hong Kong is on the brink of closing down as its financial resources continue to dwindle.

According to executive director Edwina Antonio of the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, the only other option left to them is to borrow money to keep going.

“Magsasara kami, o mangungutang para ipagpatuloy ang shelter,” Antonio replied when asked by The SUN what measures they intend to take in the face of financial distress.

Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge executive director Edwina Antonio with supporters and wards.
On April 1, Antonio renewed her appeal for financial help when she addressed the Luzon Alliance International and Global Alliance event on Chater Road.

It is only through the community’s support that the 32-year-old Bethune House is able to continue serving the scores of women who come to it for shelter when they are driven out by their employers, she said.

In early March, Antonio took to social media to appeal for financial help, saying Bethune’s cash resources would dry up next month.

Antonio said the charity must raise $120,000 each month to pay for the rent, utilities and other operating costs of its two shelters in Sheung Wan and Jordan Road.

The amount goes to food, personal hygiene products, medical attention, visa extension fee, transport and documentation needs of 15 or more residents in each of the two flats.

Despite the dire outlook for the shelter, Antonio continued her usual work advising migrant workers who approached her for advice on their particular problems.

Wards at the two shelters were at the Chater Road booth of Bethune House on Apr 1 urging mostly migrant workers passing by to contribute to Coins for Bethune.

The women had been terminated by their mostly local employers, with two of them accused of theft and a third one, of maltreating her young ward.

The theft cases are pending resolution in court while the maltreatment case had been dropped thrice by investigators for lack of evidence but has dragged on because the employer had allegedly amended her charge each time police dropped it.

Bethune House caters to helpers from the Philippines or Indonesia who are victims of abuse, illegal termination of contract, or accused of wrongdoing by their employers.

The shelter gives residents a full range of assistance, from drafting their complaints to reporting to the police, going to the hospital for a medical check-up, filing a claim in court, and attending court hearings.

During their stay, the wards are also taught their rights under the law, and the legal implications of their cases. In addition, they learn how to deal effectively with trauma, stress, anxiety and depression resulting from their experiences.

The wards are forbidden by law to work while their cases are pending, so, they totally rely on charity to remain in Hong Kong and fight their cases, Antonio said.

 She hoped that kind hearts would come to Bethune House’s rescue. Donations can be made by check payable to The Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, Ltd. or by direct deposit to Hang Seng Bank S/A number 284-8-241309.

Antonio said all cash donations of $100 and above are tax deductible.

The Bethune House was set up in 1986 by the Mission for Migrant Workers initially to help distressed Filipino helpers. It now helps workers of other nationalities.

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