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PathFinders steps up community engagement as number of pregnant MDWs grows

06 April 2021

By The SUN 

CEO Gurtin (right) with a mother and child PathFinders helped last year

A private charity that helps migrant women and their children says that despite 2020 being its “toughest” year so far due to the social unrest and coronavirus pandemic, it was able to improve the lives of 581 babies and young children in Hong Kong.

In its “Impact Report 2020” released on Sunday, Apr 4, PathFinders says these kids were among the 1,153 babies, children and mothers who sought its help in the past year.


Announcing the release of the report, board chair Vivien Webb and chief executive Catherine Gurtin said in a letter to supporters and friends that the NGO engaged 44,098 migrant domestic workers in crisis prevention initiatives.

The NGO said it handled a total of 397 cases last year, including 244 new cases of mothers and babies seeking help, and 175 hotline enquiries. It had successfully closed 245 cases, but many more needed prolonged help due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.


This led to an increase in demand for its emergency shelter, where the occupancy rate rose to 98% and the average stay lengthened to 92 days, a 50% increase from 2019.

PathFinders’ approach to tackling the growing problem is based on its three-pronged “Theory of Change”:

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·         Intervene during crisis to care for children born to migrant mothers in Hong Kong and ensure they have a nurturing care plan in place during the most critical years of early childhood development.

·         Empower migrant women to make well-informed life decisions and prevent future crisis, and equip employers with information and practical solutions to enable pregnant MDWs to enjoy their right to maternity leave and maintain employment.

·         Engage with the general public and policymakers to increase understanding, acceptance and support for children born to MDWs, and create systemic change by ensuring policies protect pregnant MDWs and their children.

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PathFinders said Covid-19 presented unprecedented challenges, especially in the NGO sector. Last year, the group made its first public appeal for funds to fill its budget shortfall for 2020.

“As we entered a ‘new normal’, requiring even greater resilience, adaptability, and prioritization, we strengthened our commitment to protect all children in Hong Kong and deliver solutions that address the root causes of crisis through the development of our Theory of Change,” the NGO said.

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“The Theory of Change will be critical to ensuring we can continue to pivot where needed, while staying true to our vision, mission and values. It will also empower us in our commitment to do even more to monitor, evaluate and hold ourselves accountable in using our finite resources from our donors, supporters and friends efficiently and effectively to achieve the greatest impact for our babies, children and mothers,” it said.

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PathFinders was set up in 2008 on the belief no child should be born alone and deprived of an identity, basic supplies, healthcare and shelter. Since then, it has improved the lives of almost 8,000 babies, children and women, the NGO said.

Some of PathFinders' 74 ambassadors who help reach out and empower their fellow MDWs

Webb and Gurtin praised the role its 74 ambassadors played in achieving a 31% increase in its engagement of MDWs to prevent crisis by educating them on the importance of making well-informed life decisions while working in Hong Kong.

The NGO put its ambassadors, who are MDW community leaders, through its “Train the Trainers” program to teach them how to empower their peers.


“This represents significant progress towards achieving our ambition of creating a sustainable community outreach model led by MDWs for MDWs,” the executives said.

PathFinders expects the problems it tackles to escalate by 2047, when the number of MDWs employed in Hong Kong is forecast to rise to 600,000 to help care for a rapidly ageing population.

Without a systemic change, the problems that PathFinders tackles will likely escalate, Webb and Gurtin said.

“We believe with imagination, collaboration and a commitment to strengthening protections for the children we serve, practical and affordable solutions can be found,” they said.

To this end, PathFinders engages in dialogue with HKSAR government departments, consulates, United Nations agencies, academics and other key stakeholders to ensure policies are enforced and continue to protect the children and mothers.


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