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PathFinders pays tribute to migrant worker-moms on Mother’s Day

06 May 2022

 By Catherine Gurtin, CEO, PathFinders

Sunday, Mar 8, is Mother’s Day - a big pat on the back to all mothers in Hong Kong (HK), especially our resilient migrant domestic workers (MDWs), many of whom are mothers too!

We can't thank MDW mothers enough for all the sacrifices they make, not only for their own families and children, but for the tens of thousands of households in our community that also rely heavily on their care and support - especially for children and elderly parents.

For almost half a century, MDWs have made tremendous contributions to our society. Far from being mere "helpers", many operate as second mothers raising generations of children in HK; typically at the expense of heart-breaking separation from their own children.


Many MDW mothers spend many years away while their children are growing up, to provide financially for their families with the hope of giving their children a brighter future.

"The separation of a mother from her family is always painful, and the trauma lingers," said  Xyza Bacani, a renowned Filipina author and photographer based in Hong Kong and New York, as she opened up about her own experience of being left behind at an early age by a MDW-mother.

Xyza’s mother, Georgia, hugs youngest daughter Sharila just before returning to HK in 2017

"I grew up without her, so I know how challenging it is (for children) to be away from (their) mothers," shared Bacani. "Saying goodbye was a routine we had done countless times since my mother left for work in 1996, but the pain never ceases."

Bacani's story is not unique - it is the story of millions of children of migrant parent(s). For decades, HK has heavily relied on MDWs’ support to care for children and elderly so that employers are able to work themselves.

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The city currently employs 340,000 MDWs, with the number forecast to rise to over 600,000 by 2047 to help care for a rapidly aging population. More than 80% of MDWs are women of childbearing age. This means the number of children left behind in the MDWs’ home countries will inevitably continue to escalate over the coming years.

As a result of this separation, some children are left in extremely vulnerable situations due to a lack of parental care and support. They are also at greater risk of experiencing violence, exploitation and abuse, often from the very caregivers their mothers entrusted them with.

Ms Remilene Marcelino, the newly-appointed social welfare attache to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, has shared her deep concern for the children of migrant mothers in their home country.


After coming across an alarming number of teenage mothers who were raped or abused by people their mothers had entrusted them with, her advice to MDW mothers is to keep a close eye and communicate frequently with their children to ensure their protection, safety and wellbeing.

More often than not, many MDW mothers struggle with long-distance parenting and to maintain heart-to-heart connections with their children across the miles. As their working day runs late into the night, they are unable to speak with their children who have already gone to sleep by the time they finish work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, with prolonged travel restrictions preventing many MDW mothers from returning home at the end of each two-year contract to see their children, who miss them terribly.


If you employ a MDW, please take moments to show your care, appreciation and support through simple gestures. Ask how she is and find out more about her family.

If she is a working mom, encourage her to take short breaks throughout the day to connect with her children. She would appreciate this time to connect, albeit virtually, to at least ensure her children are well taken care of, helped with their homework, and to just be there for them.

As a community, let’s come together to ensure adequate and much-needed support is in place to safeguard the wellbeing and best interests of all children born to migrant mothers.

It is a child’s basic right to feel safe, supported and cared for, so they can survive and thrive - something all parents desire for their children every day. 

(PathFinders is the only Hong Kong charity dedicated to supporting migrant women and their children. For more information check their website: or call ther hotline for migrant workers: 5190 4886)

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