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Generous donors help avert closure of PathFinders’ shelter

28 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

PathFinders provides shelter for homeless migrant mothers and their children 

A first-ever call for funding assistance by PathFinders Limited, a Hong Kong non-government organization that is helping needy migrant mothers and their children, has received overwhelming support.

With still a few weeks to go before the fundraising is set to end, the NGO said it has already exceeded its target after an outpouring of support from donors.

“In total, we have raised $452,000, which will cover all shelter-related expenses until the end of 2020 and into 2021, and will ensure the health and safety of homeless babies and mothers,” said PathFinders, which is headed by chief executive Catherine Gurtin. 
Gurtin took the unprecedented step on Jun 1 of emailing PathFinders supporters and friends to appeal for help to keep its shelter running until the end of the year.

The group had a target of $432,000 to cover all shelter-related expenses until Dec 31. Little did it expect that support for its crowd-funding activity would exceed expectations.

“A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported us! We are deeply touched by your generosity to help those less privileged during this difficult time,” PathFinders said in an emailed update.
“Thank you too for all the wonderful messages of encouragement you shared with your donations, these have been a much-needed source of inspiration and hope for our team.”

Without funding support, PathFinders would have been left with no option than to shut its shelter, which it opened in 2012 to provide an abode for homeless and pregnant migrant workers.

Many of those who seek help from PathFinders are migrant women who are illegally fired by their employers after they get pregnant, leaving them homeless and with nowhere to go for help.

A few are forced to overstay due to the stigma of going home as a single mother, or because they got pregnant by a man other than their husband.
The NGO also holds talks with FDWs on such topics as love scams, maternity rights and protection
Such was the case of Gema, an Indonesian helper, who was found by an acquaintance while she slept in a park in Yuen Long at the height of winter with her seven-day-old son, Dian.

Gema was taken to PathFinders, which immediately took Dian to the hospital where he was confined for several days for emergency treatment because of an infection that developed in his legs.

“This happened because Gema was unlawfully terminated from her job as a foreign domestic helper,” the NGO said.

After the surgery, both mother and child moved into PathFinder’s shelter, where they were helped in getting Dian a birth certificate while Gema received counseling on her new role as a mother, and help prepare her for their return to Indonesia.

Kuma Chow, who heads the fundraising committee, said PathFinders has no government funding and relies only on charitable foundations and the private sector.

She said that if the targeted amount was not reached, they would have been forced to close, and the homeless women and babies they are caring for would have been referred to other shelters, many of which are already full.

“With nowhere to go and in a desperate state, they risk being taken advantage of, getting into involuntary relationships and taking up illegal work like drug trafficking or dishwashing,” she said.

“Such dangerous environments and social groups are unsafe for children and, if they were to get arrested or go to jail, the children would suffer even more.”

PathFinders is now looking for a new corporate sponsor because its previous supporter had reached its maximum duration of five years to sponsor a charity in line with its corporate social responsibility undertaking, Chow said.

The NGO said sponsors can still directly help babies and mothers who are in need through its 2020 “Bridge the Gap” campaign, which is raising funds for other critical services and its community center. 

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