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Mother's love featured in online photo exhibit

13 November 2022


A Mother’s Heart A Mother’s Heart, By Tess Belgado

"This was taken 12 years ago during my first vacation in the Philippines. Behind my smile was pain. I pushed myself to hide the pain. I packed their hugs and kisses and took them with me, as they said, 'Mama, you’re leaving us again…' Even though it has been difficult, I have managed to become a mother and a father for their future.

A photo exhibit that can be viewed online has been mounted by PathFinders, a non-government organization that offers help to foreign workers in need, to explore how a mother working overseas expresses her love for the children they left behind.

“The exhibition aims to bring to the public eye the unparalleled strength, resilience and determination of MDW (migrant domestic workers) mothers who live thousands of miles away from their children,” Pathfinders said.

The photo exhibit, entitled "No Child Left Behind: A Mother's Love Knows No Borders", features 50 photographs contributed by mothers who had to leave their children to work abroad, as well as a former domestic helper who is now an award-winning photographer, Xyza Cruz Bacani.


Bacani selected 49 of the photographs from among the entries in PathFinders’ recent "49" image competition, and Bacani added one of her own.

The exhibit can be viewed here: runs until Dec. 31.

"Many of Hong Kong's 340,000 MDWs are mothers from the Philippines and Indonesia who made the very difficult decision to leave children behind in order to work overseas and create brighter futures for them – as well as the children they care for in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, despite their sacrifices, the precious contribution of MDWs has long been undervalued in our society,” said Catherine Gurtin, CEO of PathFinders. “Through our ongoing #WorkingMomsHK campaign, we pay tribute to MDWs as mothers, while also seeking to increase the community's understanding, care and appreciation for them.”

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“There’s so much we can all do to show our care and support for MDWs. If you employ an MDW who has children, please encourage her to have regular, heart-to-heart connections with her children. Support their connection by providing your employee with short breaks to interact with her children. This small gesture will truly make a meaningful difference!" she said.

Bacani added: “All the images we collected are simply striking, each revealing a unique, heart-wrenching separation story of migrant mothers and their children. Behind each smile lies a story of struggle and heartbreak. As a left-behind child myself, I can still feel the unceasing pain and trauma when looking at these images and remembering how I felt growing up without my mother by my side."


"Hong Kong has a special place in my heart. My mother works there. I worked there. It is my home. Being able to share my own experience to inspire the MDW community in the city means so much to me. For all MDW mothers, connect regularly and meaningfully with your children. They need your love as much as you need theirs,"she said.

Alongside their exhibition, PathFinders’ 14th Anniversary and Children’s Day fundraising appeal No Child Left Behind seeks to raise funds to protect children born to migrant mothers in Hong Kong.

Donations will plug urgent funding gaps for critical services and programmes, to ensure no child is born without an identity, deprived of shelter, education or unable to access healthcare.

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Thanks to a group of private donors, the first HK$269,000 of donations will be matched! Support PathFinders’ No Child Left Behind campaign at

Since 2008, PathFinders has helped over 9,800 migrant mothers and children. Every year 500 children and their migrant mothers seek their specialist care and protection.


“The last few years have been difficult for so many in Hong Kong, but especially for MDWs who have faced their own unique challenges and been excluded from pandemic relief measures. For the PathFinders team it's been even harder than usual to help expectant and migrant mothers navigate their crisis and ensure no child is left behind,” the NGO said.

Here is a sampling of the entries:

Waiting for Ibu (Mom) to Come Home

By Alinggar Alfat Akbar (10 years old)

24 July 2015 was the last day I celebrated my birthday with my Ibu (mom) before she went to Hong Kong to work. I have been without my mother for 7 years. I know Ibu wants to be beside me and wish me a happy birthday. Hopefully next year Alinggar can eat birthday cake again with you, Ibu. Alinggar loves you, Ibu.


Bridging Hearts

By Evelyn Genisan

These are my treasures! An old school way of expression, and a great amount of effort to show love and gratitude. They are the best gifts I receive from my kids on special occasions. Whenever I depart from home, they also insert a note or an envelope in my bag. I usually find it at the airport or days after my arrival. It always brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart with love.


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