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Succor of distressed migrant workers in dire straits amid huge deficits

08 December 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Bethune House and clients: They need more kind-hearted donors to help the shelter cope with $700k deficit

Two leading sanctuaries of distressed migrant workers in Hong Kong are themselves appealing for financial help after their resources were depleted by a surge of troubled domestic helpers seeking assistance.

Mission for Migrant Workers is seeking to plug its $150,000 budget deficit this year by launching its annual Charity Raffle Draw, which will end on Dec 19.

Its shelter, Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, is separately embarking on its “Raise the Roof” fundraiser in a bid to close a $700,000 deficit it incurred while responding to urgent calls for assistance from helpers in distress.


Its target:  a whopping $2 million.

Both institutions said their expenses ballooned this year due to more displaced MDWs knocking on their doors, day or night, amid a rise in job terminations as the pandemic conditions strain employer-helper relations. 

Add to this the SOS calls from newly arrived workers who came unprepared for the often unpalatable, if not strange, meals served at most quarantine sites, or the inadequate water and food supplies given them.


The situation is dire at Bethune House, whose general manager Edwina Antonio is staring at a yawning budget hole. 

Antonio says a surge in the number of migrants needing help has left them struggling to cope with expenses

“We’re still facing a $700,000 deficit for 2021, that’s why we have a Christmas emergency appeal,” said Antonio. She said the shelter’s monthly operating expenses  reach about $250,000 as it supports many more workers outside Bethune.

“In the first quarter of 2021, we supported more than 400 with food and shelter outside Bethune House, those whom we could not accommodate in our shelter due to social distancing,” Antonio said.

She said the burden is heavy. She expressed hope corporate sponsors will come to the shelter’s aid to help tide it over.


“I also wish the regular monthly donors of Bethune House increase, so that funding is better assured if there is regularity monthly,” Antonio said.

She said since the pandemic began in early 2020, the number of migrant workers and other people seeking help from Bethune had quadrupled, tripling its budgetary needs.

Antonio said that aside from the 26 residents now accommodated in its two shelters, Bethune House still has 22 workers billeted in hostels who also need to be provided for, not just for meals but also for visa fees and transport money.

Pindutin para sa detalye

This season, Bethune House is stepping up its donation campaign by highlighting what the shelter does to advance the cases of its wards while teaching them skills that they could use to find jobs when they exit the domestic labor market.

"Migrant workers are vital to Hong Kong society in supporting local families and the community. They care for us and now we need to care for them as well,” Bethune House says in its appeal for donations in its “Raise the Roof” campaign.

“Neglecting migrant workers at this time hurts our community here in Hong Kong. As we continue to fight the global pandemic, we must continue to support those who have continued to care for us for so long,” the shelter says.

Pindutin para sa detalye

The church-based Mission, meanwhile, said its costs have nearly doubled from pre-pandemic levels due to strong demand for its services.

Tellez hopes a raffle draw will cover Mission's $150k budget shortfall

General manager Cynthia Abdon-Tellez said on Dec 6 that she hopes the raffle draw will raise enough funds to help cover its $150,000 budget shortfall.

“We are trying all kinds of fundraising so that we could fill our budget gap,” said Tellez, who added in jest that they at Mission will even to do high-wire dancing if needed.

Tellez said everyone did not expect the pandemic to last this long. In fact, she said, the Mission had a buffer set aside, but that has now been depleted after the Covid-19 contagion hit, and lasted far longer than anyone was prepared for.

The Mission’s expenses nearly doubled since the pandemic began, for the same reasons cited by Bethune’s Antonio.

Apart from the regular counseling the Mission gives, it also looks after workers undergoing treatment in hospital for serious illnesses as they are at risk of being dismissed by their employers once they have used up their sick leave benefits.

“We try to persuade the employers not to cut their visa so that they can still enjoy subsidized treatment. But there are employers who refuse to do so,” Tellez said.

Tellez said the Mission has one major corporate sponsor, but she does not expect it to be there all the time. Besides, its contribution has already been exhausted by the unexpected expenses, thus the need to launch a fundraiser like the annual raffle draw, she said.

Sale of the raffle tickets began on Oct 25. It will end at 5pm on Dec 19. Winners will be starting 6pm of Dec 19 at Our Centre, St John’s Cathedral, 4-8 Garden Road, Central.  

The top prize is an Acer Swift 3 laptop valued at $6,000; the second is a 45-hour feast staycation package for two persons worth $1,961; two Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches worth a total of $2,800 are also at stake.

The prizes include three Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 5G smart phones worth $3,900; a three-course executive lunch for two worth $1,074; and four Xiaomi Mi Air SE true wireless headsets worth $800 in total.


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