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NGO helps reunite HK-born baby with his migrant mom

28 August 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao
Gurtin shows a mother and son helped by PathFinders in her mid-year video report
A baby boy born in Hong Kong has been successfully saved by a nongovernmental organization from being separated forever from his Indonesian mother.

The rescue nearly after a year of separation between mother and child highlighted the accomplishments in the first half this year of PathFinders Hong Kong Ltd, a charity with a mission to protect distressed migrant women and their children in the city.

Chief executive officer Catherine Gurtin said in a video report that soon after the baby’s birth, a local businessman who offered the maid a job and promised to put her and her child in a boarding house.

Meanwhile, he sent the mother to Macau, purportedly to talk to an agency that could her secure her work visa, Gurtin said. The man also asked for the baby’s birth documents, saying he’d help him get Hong Kong residency. He also promised to hire a caretaker and pay for napkins and milk powder.

But while in Macau, the mother found out the man had reneged on his promises and left the baby in the care of her friends.

“To her horror, she also found out that she couldn’t get a new work visa and that Hong Kong’s Immigration Department denied her re-entry. She had no choice but to go back to Indonesia,” Gurtin said.

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She said the mother stayed in touch with her friends and tried every way to reunite with her baby. Each time she asked the man to help send her baby to Indonesia, he would offer excuses, such as more time was needed to process documents.

After several months, the man asked the mother to sign a document granting him custody of the child. The mother became suspicious that he was intentionally keeping her son away from her. She approached PathFinders and its case manager sprang into action.
“First, PathFinders asked the mother to authorize us to handle the case. Then we sought the assistance of the Indonesian Consulate to send its staff member to accompany the child on a flight to Indonesia,” Gurtin said. The mother and child were thus reunited.

“Without intervention, the child could have been lost to strangers or even a potential human trafficker forever. It is crucial for migrant mothers to be empowered with knowledge to protect themselves and their children, and to seek help when needed,” PathFinders said in a statement.
With help from supporters, the NGO managed to help 461 migrant women and their children in the first half of 2020 alone
Gurtin said that in the first half of 2020 alone, the NGO was able to help 461 babies, children and their migrant worker mothers.

She said this would not have been possible without the continued support from friends and donors, despite the double whammy dealt by Hong Kong’s sociopolitical unrest and the Covid-19 crisis.
Another distressed migrant worker who has received help from PathFinders is a Filipina domestic worker named Sarah, who allegedly endured maltreatment by her cranky employer after learning she was pregnant.

In a youtube video uploaded by PathFinders, Sarah spoke of her misery under the woman she had agreed to work for, despite warnings from fellow workers that she was a bad boss.

Sarah said she was scolded constantly by the woman who got ballistic at every little mistake. The employer punished the maid by limiting or delaying her meals, gave her heavy work, barred her from going out or talking to neighbors, and even blamed her for getting pregnant.

Then came the coronavirus outbreak in January. Fearing the disease, the employer told Sarah to wear a mask and gloves and wrap herself in plastic all the time, as if she were a virus.

The daily bad-mouthing did not stop, forcing Sarah to tell the employer she was quitting. But the latter refused to let her go until her replacement had arrived from the Philippines.

When the other maid arrived, Sarah begged to be allowed to stay until her scheduled delivery on Sept 27, but the employer drove her out.

Luckily, she discovered PathFinders, which immediately took her in while she was desperately looking for a shelter. “I am grateful that I am here in the shelter with the help of PathFinders,” Sarah said.

Also among the pregnant mothers who have found refuge in Pathfinders is Widi, an Indonesian helper who found out that she was pregnant while in-between jobs.

Widi had already found a new employer when she discovered she was pregnant after feeling unwell while at the Immigration Department to obtain a new work visa. She wanted to keep the baby but her boyfriend urged her to get an abortion.

Confused and afraid to inform the agency and her future employer, Widi stayed in a boarding house, spending her savings on food, accommodation, doctor visits and remittances to her family in Indonesia until she became broke.

She heard about PathFinders from a friend when she had already overstayed for two weeks. The NGO’s case manager helped and encouraged Widi to surrender and move into PathFinders’ shelter.

Widi is eager to go home to her family, but the cost of an air ticket has skyrocketed. When she recorded her story, she said her mom was critically ill, and she was hoping to be with her soon.  But soon after that recording she found out that her mom had died.

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