Last August 1 was the last day our summer interns stayed with us.
After what seemed to be a short stay of two months, their internship has ended and they will be moving on and enjoying the rest of their summer holiday. We in the APMM are very happy to have them this year – Hanna, Adrian, Mary, Hannah and Jason.
Below are three reflections from them. It was very touching what they have written and yes, we look forward to seeing them again in the future, working side by side the migrants for a better Hong Kong, a better world.
In our field of work, we don’t say goodby. We say: See you later!
I will miss you, APMM (by Hanna Wong)
Time flies. My two-month internship in APMM is going to the end very soon. Credited to APMM and especially Rey, we have new exposure to different migrant issues and tasks every single day. I believe the lessons and knowledge I acquired from APMM will be of life-long use to me. However, it is sad that this also implies the separation from my dear colleagues.
In fact, unlike most interns working in the migrant organization, I am a psychology student rather than having a sociology, social work or law major. Most of my friends has chosen companies of internship which is related to their psychology major. They often ask me why I would choose an internship that is totally not beneficial and irrelevant to my career in the future. But now I can tell them without any hesitation. I believe what I gained in APMM must be more valuable and far-reaching than most of the others. If you ask me to generalize my days in APMM in one word, it would definitely be “CHANGE”. In the past years, I had been staying in my comfort zone. What I did were all aimed at pursuing for better academic result with the ultimate goal to be admitted to a prestige university in HK. Yes, finally I did it. I am now a year three student studying in the University of Hong Kong, the top university here. However, apart from that, I did not have well-rounded personal growth in the past days ascribed to the spoon feeding educational system in HK. I am still a narrow-sighted person with insufficient global vision. Thanks to APMM, I have different learning opportunities so I can utilize my summer semester to the fullest.
In fact, I neither read newspaper regularly nor do I have a foreign domestic worker at home in the past. Therefore, I am not much aware of migrant concerns, not to mention being able to experience the plights of migrants. Fortunately, working at APMM in these two months, a wide range of migrants issues with which I has been immersed has changed me profoundly. The knowledge I gained is not only confined to the difficulties faced by foreign domestic workers and migrants in HK, but also the political and social situation in Philippines and Indonesia. It is the term “forced migration” that impressed me the most. Contrary to what we perceive, they are actually forced to migrate to HK. For Filipinos, regardless of their high educational background, they can hardly find a work with reasonable salary in Philippines. Even for the government itself, they support migration as a means to stimulate their economy, as well as stabilizing the national income.
However, FDWs we have contacted with do not meekly accept the cruel fact. Instead, they actively engaged in different activities aims to influence changes to the government. For instance, rather than merely a festival for enjoyment purpose, the anniversary of UNIFIL in central was themed on the #OFWs4Change agenda, which was crafted during a summit held on June 19. The group called for action on the agenda, which demands scrapping the Overseas Employment Certificate, reducing passport fees and the extension of passport validity. The group at the same time demanded services for domestic workers. The agenda also asked for the newly-elected Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte to address the “tanim-bala” scam, in which employees at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has allegedly planted bullets into the passengers’ luggage to extort them. The day began with the parade urging for the above change as well as drawing the public’s attention. I am very grateful that I could be one of the activists joining this grand festival. In fact, I have never imagined I would join any parade, not to mention the parade attending to the migrants’ welfare. It was followed by dance performances by fellow migrant organizations, game booths educating the workers participants their rights in Hong Kong and also some welfare booths providing simple medical services to migrants. My intern friends, Adrian and Hannah, were given chances to perform the dancing featuring the predicaments of farmers in Philippines. Jason and Mary were at the meantime in charge of a dart game for education purpose. Through my participation, I am very pleased that I had more interaction with Filipino migrants, at the same time knew about about the difficulties they face, and also the social reality in Philippines.
And on the usual Sundays, I was assigned to mingle with Indonesian migrant organization, IMWU. Despite the fact that I was the only intern who stayed with them, I did not feel any alienation. They all did not treat me as a stranger, but their close friend. Me and my intern friends also worked on a research project with a topic of “Activism of Foreign Domestic Workers in the Hong Kong Social Environment”. We are glad that they were very eager to share their life stories to us. One picture I have gotten is that their lives are in fact beset with hardships and difficulties which are beyond my imagination. They have to face pressures from various parties. Earning $4210 each month, they actually need to bear the vast debts of agencies fees, separation from family and the most prominent one – discrimination from locals. For example, they were sometimes criticized by locals for no reasons on street. They always treat them as nuisance when they see FDWs sitting on street, etc. Often times, they would encounter circumstances that the security guard impose personal restrictions on FDWs prohibiting them to use the sound system and the public spaces as others locals entitle to. Hong Kong always hails itself as an international city successfully integrating people of different nationalities together. Once, I did believe this. But now, I hold doubt on this statement. Locals here are too prideful of ourselves and repel people outside regardless of their help to us. One way locals can reduce the discrimination is definitely through opening our hearts and interacting more with the migrants and opening our minds to think in different perspectives. It is hoped that a society built on respectful relationship can be created. This is the Hong Kong I long wish for.
But above all, I think it is not knowledge that I acquired most valuable in APMM, but the relationships I built up here. In Hong Kong, I seldom perceive other places besides my home as my second home. Most people I encountered in Hong Kong are apathetic and self-interested. But in APMM, all staffs, interns and FDWs I stayed with gave me a feeling of warmth. In these days, we worked together with the same goal, we laughed together at the same joke, we enjoyed together with the same delicious food. I have already thought of many precious memories in my mind when I am typing these sentences. Thank you all, Rey, Aaron, Janet, Norman, Adrian, Jason, Hannah, Mary, all people I have contacted with these days. You all gave me a lot of great memories for me to take away in this internship. But I believe the end of the conference is the last moment I will see each other. I would definitely come back to visit you all and render any assistance if you need me in the future! Thank you taking care of me in these two months! Don’t forget me. I am Hanna, the “Hanna” without the “h”!
Migrants and the Year of Mercy (by Mary Mulcahy)
As our summer internship draws to a close, I am pleased to share some final reflections. In my previous reflection, I wrote about the power of the grassroots migrant movement. Today, I would like to consider from a spiritual perspective the theme of mercy as it relates to the migrant movement, the work of APMM, and my personal experiences over the past two months.
The Gospel of Mercy is something that motivated me to apply for a position at APMM in the first place, and since then has informed and propelled my work here. As Catholic readers may know, we are now in the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis. In his words, “Why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness” (Francis, 2015). In the Year of Mercy, we are called to, among other things, perform acts of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. During our time with APMM and our interactions with other NGOs and migrant organizations, I have seen and heard about the ways that acts of mercy are part of their work and movement. In my very first assignment with APMM, Flag Day, I witnessed the mercy of the people of Hong Kong through their generous donations. Since then, I have learned about how the Mission For Migrant Workers as well as grassroots welfare officers “counsel the doubtful” and “comfort the sorrowful.” Many migrant workers who have faced injustice and abuse yet “bear wrongs patiently” and “forgive injuries.” Dedicated activists “admonish the sinner” and “instruct the ignorant” by their campaigns. The Bethune House provides food, drink, and shelter to those that need them. At APMM’s Migrant Sunday radio recording at Hong Kong Christian Service, we united in prayer with not only those in the studio but also all that would be listening, for the welfare of migrants of all kinds. These are just a few examples of the ways I have seen mercy at work in great ways this summer.
Since declaring the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has placed special emphasis on mercy toward migrants. For example, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees has been an annual tradition of the Church for over a century. This year, the theme chosen by Pope Francis for this event was: “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy” (Francis, 2016). In his message for the WDMR 2016, he said:
Biblical revelation urges us to welcome the stranger; it tells us that in so doing, we open our doors to God, and that in the faces of others we see the face of Christ himself. Many institutions, associations, movements and groups, diocesan, national and international organizations are experiencing the wonder and joy of the feast of encounter, sharing and solidarity. They have heard the voice of Jesus Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). (Francis, 2016)
Similarly, “welcoming the stranger” was one of the themes of our Migrant Sunday service. I think that in the context of migrant issues, welcoming the stranger means considering migrants as members of society, fostering a free and just environment for migrants, and, on a person-to-person level, replacing prejudice and oppression with mercy and friendship. From the first reading of the service, the final verse stuck in my mind: “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9, New Revised Standard). If migrants are the “aliens” or strangers in a community, the better response is one of empathy. This reading prompted me to reflect on the importance of recognizing the stranger as your neighbor, and recognizing the dignity of every human person.
My time at APMM, and especially being welcomed into the Filipino Migrants Association on Sundays, has really helped improve my understanding of the “feast of encounter” or “culture of encounter” that Pope Francis talks about. A culture of encounter is about neighborliness, love, and of course mercy. Our encounters with others are ways that we encounter Christ in our lives. Pope Francis calls it a “feast” because opening the door to meaningful encounters with others is a source of “wonder and joy” and a cause for celebration. Francis also explains that an encounter is about sharing and exchange, both giving of oneself and receiving of what the other has to offer (Francis, 2016). This is why welcoming the stranger and creating a culture of encounter is positive for both parties and for the promotion a more merciful and harmonious society on the whole.
These are some reflections I have considered as I near the end of my time with APMM this summer. In relation to what I have discussed here, I look forward to sitting in on the upcoming interfaith conference, to perhaps learn more about what Christian teaching says about migrant issues, as well as the teachings of other faiths, and how different faith groups can come together for a common cause. Finally, I would like to conclude my final reflection by saying thank you to APMM for the opportunities, lessons, and experiences provided by this internship, and especially a big thank you to Rey our internship supervisor. It has been a great two months working with APMM!
Exodus. New Revised Standard Version. Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1989. Bible Study Tools. Salem Web Network. Web. 27 July 2016.
Francis. “Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis.” Celebration of the First Vespers of the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. Vatican Basilica, Vatican City. 11 Apr. 2015. The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Web. 26 July 2016.
Francis. “Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy.” Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2016. 17 Jan. 2016. The Holy See. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Web. 26 July 2016.
Reflections (by Adrian Ng)
Time passes so fast and it comes to the end of my internship in APMM. In the past two months, I had experienced a lot and I was glad to have the opportunity to work with APMM in this summer. At the start of the internship, I had a chance to visit other migrant organizations and shelter such as Bethune House in Hong Kong. Then, the integration with Filipino cultural dance group Likha every Sunday was a good memory to me. During the course of the internship, other interns and I were working on a podcast project. The podcast is to introduce migrants about C189, their rights as domestic workers and how to empower themselves. We had English and Chinese versions for the recordings, allowing migrant workers in Taiwan or in mainland China to listen to. In the last weeks in APMM, we were mainly working on a research and assisting the preparation of a conference which will be held in late July.
The research which other interns and I worked on was about how social environment affect migrant activism in Hong Kong. The time given to us was not that sufficient but we still managed to work on it and finished it by the end of the internship. To collect data from migrant workers, we needed to talk with migrant organizations and discuss the topic with them. During the data collection process, I had a chance to meet the Indonesian organizations in Victoria Park which was a new experience. I got to see how Victoria Park is utilized by Indonesian groups on Sunday for gathering and campaigns. The discussion with FILGUYS (a Filipino lesbian group) gave other insights into difficulties foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong are facing. They expressed the lack of support and care from the local community. That meeting led me to reflect on myself: Have I done enough to show care to the foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong? What can the local youth do?
In my opinion, local youth has not done enough to show care towards migrant workers. Most of my friends wondered what I was doing for my internship. Some were quite surprised of what I was doing. They may not have a clear idea on migrant issues in Hong Kong. Thus, it is good to invite some of my friends and my family to join me on Sunday. This allows more people to get in touch with migrant workers and encourage both parties to talk to each other. I wish to influence the people around me and let this atmosphere spread to others in the society. Though my internship is coming to an end, I am sure I will keep visiting Likha on Sunday. I actually become friends with Likha members and we want to keep in touch with one another.
Hannah, Likha members and me on Sunday
In the last days of my internship, I was involved in the preparation of a conference which will be held on 30-31 July and 1 August. The conference is about the issue of marriage migrants. Our supervisor Rey briefed us about the flow of the programme, the schedule of the flights of participants, things we need to prepare and our duty when the conference starts. We had our work divided and I was in charge of buying stationery such as ID holders, name plate holders and folders. We also needed to contact transport agency and hostels, asking the price of their services and compared them. The experience of assisting the preparation work of a conference is special to me since I have never tried to help in such a big event. Fortunately, the preparation work was finished before the assigned schedule with effort of other interns. It is great to work as a team! Thus, I am looking forward to the start of the conference. I am sure it will broaden my knowledge since marriage migrants is an aspect I have not explored before.
To conclude, this internship is more than what I expected. Before coming to APMM, I expected the major work will be confined to the office only. However, there were visits to migrant organizations, integration with migrant workers, chances to take part in campaigns and preparation work of Marriage Migrant Conference. In these two months, I had seen and experienced a lot. It is like I found the other part of Hong Kong. Migrant workers are surely part of Hong Kong society but their hard work may not be seen by the local community. Most migrant workers come to Hong Kong because of economic hardship. They come here without support and some even face discriminations. We should take initiative to communicate with migrant workers, listen to their needs and concerns. It may be hard to influence all the people and ask them to support migrants in Hong Kong, but I believe it can always start from us and spread the signal to others! Glad to spend my summer in APMM and to work and communicate with migrant workers.