Cover Catherine Gurtin, CEO of PathFinders (Photo: Supplied)

Catherine Gurtin shares useful tips for supporting the city’s most vulnerable communities, and reveals why the importance of migrant domestic workers should never be forgotten

Envision is a series designed to bring hope to Hongkongers amid the uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic. Each week, we publish letters of encouragement and messages of positivity from the city’s most influential leaders in the realms of art, culture, business and sport. These deeply personal, first-person accounts from the community can be read as love letters to Hong Kong. With restrictions easing, the series inspires and serves as a reminder that we’re all in this together, and that we will bounce back stronger than ever.

Catherine Gurtin is the CEO of PathFinders Hong Kong, a charity dedicated to supporting children born to migrant mothers. Guided by the belief that everyone deserves a fair start in life, PathFinders works to ensure that unsupported children in Hong Kong are protected and their mothers are empowered by knowing their rights.

There are roughly 400,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, but since the beginning of Covid-19 the charity has faced mounting challenges, especially when workers have tested positive for Covid-19. With stories of employers forcing their helpers to quarantine outside their home or terminating their contracts upon discovering their infection, many workers have been left homeless and without a safe place to recover.

“We just don't want to see these women on the streets,” Gurtin told the South China Morning Post in February, when she called on health authorities to provide support.

Here, she highlights her journey managing an NGO over the past two years, and explains why she’s indebted to her own domestic worker, Celeste.

April 27, 2022

I’ve loved and called Hong Kong my home for over eight years. My family and I arrived from Singapore in early 2014 when my son was just five months old. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time. We were initially brought here because of opportunities in the financial sector for my husband. The chance to give my experience, time and passion to serve some of the most marginalised children in Hong Kong has brought me an enormous sense of purpose and fulfilment. But truth be told, the last few months have felt relentless and challenged every ounce of my being.

As a working mom of two primary school-age children, and with no immediate family in Hong Kong, this latest Covid-19 wave has required the need to draw on levels of strength and resilience I didn’t know I possessed. Our incredible team at PathFinders have gone to extraordinary lengths to maintain our services and respond to the ever-changing needs of our moms and babies in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment.

Like many working moms in Hong Kong, I am fortunate to have a migrant domestic worker at home who enables me to do the best job I can with my family, while allowing me to have a career. While I regularly battle with mom guilt, knowing Aunty Celeste (as we affectionately call her) is on hand to shower our children with love, and support online schooling while my husband and I are at work, has more often than not saved our sanity.

Ordinarily I would see my parents twice a year. This separation has been especially heartbreaking. However, I am acutely aware that for Celeste, the separation from her husband and 15-year-old daughter has been far more difficult—particularly after the loss of her father earlier this year and the inability for her to return to pay her final respects.

The ongoing pandemic is having a devastating impact on so many marginalised groups in our city—including the homeless, elderly, refugees and migrant domestic workers. As an NGO on the frontline, we have seen an increasing demand for our work and witnessed the [already] considerable wealth gap continue to widen since the start of the pandemic. However, we simply cannot do what we do without the support and encouragement of the wider community.

As life starts to return to normal and we look to a brighter future, please do what you can to contribute and support some of the most vulnerable in our society.

As a starting point, here are some things you can do:

● Firstly, look after yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup. Try to take a little time for yourself to recharge whenever you feel overwhelmed. It can be as simple as going for a walk or having a conversation with a loved one.

● Show appreciation and support to the people around you: your family, friends and colleagues. If you employ a migrant domestic worker, be sensitive to their emotional needs during this time too. Many are working moms who have not seen their children for more than two years and miss them terribly. A small gesture to allow them to connect with their children during the day could mean a lot.

● Check up on the charities you support and ask them what they need. Believe me, something as simple as sending a note to let them know you appreciate what they do means the world and will give them the energy to take on another day. —Catherine Gurtin

 

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