So I can talk about the cuisine, the mobs of people everywhere you turn, the random guys I meet in the airport…but it occured to me that I have yet to talk about what it is exactly that I am doing in Hong Kong! So, I’ll give you the low down, complete with coding reference to be used from now on (since everyone is so uptight about online anonymity and all 🙂
As of July 15th I was commissioned as a Mission Intern (Mintern) in the Young Adult Program (YAP) of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), which is the global mission sending agency of the United Methodist Church (UMC). Whew…ok, I’m done. Just kidding! As Mintern, I have dedicated the next three years of my life to the UMC, with half of that time being spent in a social justice mission context overseas, and the other half spent in a social justice mission context domestically. So, here I am in Hong Kong, working for the Filipino Migrant Workers Mission (FMWM or sometimes I will call it just The Mission) and the Bethane House (BH). Both are ministries for foreign domestic workers how have been abused or mis-used somehow in the work place. The FMWM focuses, obviously, only with women from the Philippines. They offer legal advice, peer counseling, consultations on contracts, visitations in the hospitals, and escorts to court and immigration. The FMWM is run out of St. John’s Anglican Church (we’ll just call it St. John’s from here). There is a board of 5 members, and only 3 paid staff, one of which is Father from the church, so he is paid from the church, not the mission. The rest is run by a small handful (about 150) volunteers! What I will be doing there is filing, encoding case loads, eventually once I learn the system I will be able to take on cases of my own, helping the women one on one. I will also be helping with grant writing (yikes! any advice!?), as well as writing for all three publications put out through the Mission, the Church and the Filipino community! I am most excited about getting to write for these publications because it will give me the opportunity I have always wanted – to write for a real publication! I will use stories from the women to incorporate into my writings, which is also very exciting, as I love to hear about people’s stories! I have also become the resident “grammer-girl” since I am usually the only native-English speaking person around. (There are a lot of questions like, “Do you say ‘on behalf’ or ‘in behalf’?”) I will be working at the Mission 4 days a week, Tues, Thurs, Fri and Sunday. The people I will be working with most often there are my advisor, CA, the Father, and Lady (obviously not their real names – you can all imagine why). They are fantastic thus far, and have been very helpful in orienting me in not just my work, but the area and history as well!
The second part of my job is working in the BH. The BH is a shelter that is open to women in emergency situations. It was created out of the FMWM, but is open to all nationalities and religions. When a domestic helper (DH) faces a situation of abuse or mis-use, they go to places like the FMWM for advice and counsel (there are about 6 other organizations here in HK focused on specific nationalities), and if they are in need of shelter, they are refered to the BH. BH can house 20 women comfortably, but has been known to house upwards of 35. Here, the women can also seek counseling. They are soley responsible for the cooking for one another and cleaning – meal times are a big deal here, as 20 or more “sisters” gather around the table or on the floor, sharing a meal and the bond that always comes out of that. The BH offers sessions on various topics from Western Cooking, English classes, as well as different handicrafts. The cooking and English are to help make them for marketable to the DH-market, and the handicraft session is two fold: 1- it allows the women to focus on something with their hands, getting their minds off their present situations, even if for just a few hours; 2- the crafts are sold at the annual Christmas bazzar and the money is used to support the BH. The BH is a registered charitable organization, so it soley run on donations. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will be here, working on encoding files into the system, assisting in counseling, and teaching classes in the evenings. Next Wednesday I start teaching English classes! That was something I was totally unprepared for – so if anyone has any ideas – I could use them!! In October I will start teaching a handicraft class, and probably starting in November or December, I will also co-teach the Western Cooking class!! Here at the BH my advisor is EW and I work mostly with MD and UV. (again, not the real names…) The BH is open to women of all nationalities, but right now there is an influx of Indonesian women. They love to cook, and then watch as I try these strange new dishes. They got a kick out of the whole “chili” incident.
So my days are very full and busy. I work from 10am – 6pm, that’s when I don’t have sessions at night, or am setting up in the morning for a rally or peacewalk or picket. (I particpated in my first HK picket last week, and my first peacewalk ever will be on the 23rd!) But so far, I am really enjoying my job(s). I love the flow of cultures, and the common desire for stories to be heard. It is going to be a long and busy 16 months, but I know that I am going to learn SO much!
*any other questions? feel free to ask.