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NGO seeks donations to maintain shelter for pregnant migrants

11 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

PathFinders rescued this woman and her newborn who were sheltering in an open rooftop 
Non-government organization PathFinders Limited has taken the unprecedented step of asking for donations online in a bid to prevent the closure of its shelter for pregnant domestic workers.

In an email sent out on Jun 1, Children’s Day, PathFinders chief executive Catherine Gurtin asked supporters to help keep its shelter in operation.

“Today we celebrate children with the launch of our first ever digital fundraising campaign to Save our Shelter and ensure we can protect every child that needs help during this time of crisis,” the CEO said in her email. 

Pindutin para sa detalye
Gurtin told The SUN that the NGO urgently needs to raise $432,000 to cover all its shelter-related expenses until the yearend. She said in this unprecedented time, when the protests and pandemic have hit everyone, “no amount is too small to make a difference.”

This is the first time PathFinders has appealed for donations since it was founded in 2008. Before this, the group had been the envy of other NGOs due to its strong support from corporates and private individuals.
But Hong Kong’s massive anti-government protests in the second half of last year and the coronavirus crisis that hit the city since the start of 2020 have changed all that.

Gurtin said like many charities in Hong Kong, PathFinders’ fundraising has been hit hard by the socio-political unrest and the Covid-19 crisis.
“Huge uncertainty as to whether we can hold our annual fundraising dinner, which was set to raise $3 million, means we’ve already made significant budget cuts this year. However, without additional funding, we face closing our emergency shelter and scaling back key services at our community centre,” Gurtin said.

The response from the public has been positive so far. As of this writing, with 51 days left in the campaign, PathFinders has already raised $186,025 from just 127 backers, or 43% of its target amoung
PathFinders’ shelter is the only one of its kind in Hong Kong. Since 2011, it has sheltered 332 babies and mothers who had nowhere else to go. 

“Before coming to us, they may have been living on a beach, in a park, on a friend’s sofa or even at a brothel. Our shelter is particularly critical for mothers considering adoption or those who’ve been physically or sexually abused and require extra care,” Gurtin said.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.
Without its shelter, the health and safety of homeless babies and mothers will be at risk, the CEO said. More so now that the demand for Pathfinders’ services has surged.

“We’ve had an 80% increase in hotline calls since January and our case managers are at full capacity juggling 173 cases involving 213 babies and children. Feedback from our beneficiaries shows increased challenges accessing basic supplies and food,” she said.

Kuma Chow, who leads the fundraising drive, said PathFinders used to have two shelters, but funding constraints had led the NGO to shut one of them. The remaining shelter houses four to five families and has reached full capacity, she said.

Operating the shelter costs about $72,000 a month, Chow said. This includes rent, utilities, supplies and food allowances, and the cost of the shelter manager, who provides specialist care, counseling and guidance to resolve residents’ crisis and empower them to plan a bright future for their child.

“As a non-subvented NGO, we have no government funding, so are reliant on charitable foundations and the private sector. We’ve seen a drop in donations from individuals, community groups and corporates,” Chow said. 

For the last five years, PathFinders had covered its shelter expenses with generous funding from a corporate donor. But, like many fund providers, the donor’s policy on corporate social responsibility prevents it from supporting the charity beyond five years.

“We are yet to secure a new sponsor, and without our fundraising dinner this year, we do not have enough funds to cover the expenses. If we cannot raise enough donations from our crowdfunding campaign, we will be forced to close [our shelter],” Chow said. 

“If this happens, we’ll try to refer homeless women and their babies to other shelters, but we’ve heard many are already full and not accepting new admissions,” she said.
The NGO has looked after homeless mothers and their babies since 2008
She fears that with nowhere to go and in a desperate state, the women risk being taken advantage of, getting into involuntary relationships and taking up illegal work like drug trafficking or dish washing.

“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,” Chow said.

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