Over Three Hundred Domestic Workers from HKU's Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Join in Post-typhoon Beach Cleanup and Relief Efforts
Hong Kong, 28 September 2018 - As typhoon Mangkhut washed plastics and litter ashore Hong Kong’s coastlines, 330 domestic workers from the Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP)joined multiple NGOs, including Plastic Free Seas and Soap Cycling, on the holiday following this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, to restore three of the city’s beaches to their former glory.
Few would deem it desirable to work on a bonus holiday shortly following a six-day work week and a whole weekend of labor, but that is precisely what 330 domestic workers in Hong Kong did on the holiday that followed Mid-Autumn Festival this year. Having volunteered their days-off over the weekend to recycle soap and create care packages for coastal communities affected by typhoon Mangkhut, on behalf of Soap Cycling, a charity dedicated to upcycling single-use soaps and distributing them to the people in need, the domestic workers at DWEP, the world’s first domestic worker trade school and empowerment project, showed up with indefatigable enthusiasm at Deep Water Bay, Lamma Island, and Discovery Bay on Tuesday, 25 September 2018, to join forces with environmental conservation and advocacy organization Plastic Free Seas for a beach cleanup. In Discovery Bay alone, the domestic workers and volunteers had collated a record-number of 132 bags of rubbish in just one and a half hours.
“The main objective is to change the way rubbish is viewed through collaboration with companies and community projects such as DWEP,” said Dana Winograd, Director of Plastic Free Seas. So overwhelming was the domestic workers’ response to rid Hong Kong’s beaches of rubbish that not all who participated were enrollees at DWEP - some learned about the beach cleanup through word-of-mouth and social media, and felt compelled to get involved.
Knowing the domestic workers’ deep sense of belonging to Hong Kong, one would not be surprised to learn that this is the fifth year that the city’s domestic workers organize their own beach cleanup almost immediately after the typhoons have wreaked havoc on the city. The cleanups are absolutely voluntary, and the domestic workers simply feel it is the right thing to do because Hong Kong is their home too.
“Very often, we overlook the contribution domestic workers make to the Hong Kong society. And yet here they are, recycling soap at Soap Cycling for the people in need, cleaning the beaches of trash after one of the worst typhoons the city has seen, on their holidays,” said Jon Pedersen, Director of Soap Cycling.
Empowered by their camaraderie during the annual beach cleanups, as well as the educational lectures, trainings and workshops offered by DWEP at The University of Hong Kong every weekend, the domestic helpers aspire to bigger changes at their respective households: they want to inspire behavioral changes in their employers towards a more eco-conscious lifestyle through the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle).
All these long-term, sustainable environmental and social impact for Hong Kong are created by the women who enable Hong Kong women to stay in or re-enter the workforce to provide their family with a better standard of living, the women who work in earnest six days a week, the very same women who often dedicate their only day-off to make the city a better place. The majority of them do not or are not guaranteed to, live in Hong Kong permanently, but their devotion and passion never dwindle, because “Hong Kong is our home too!”
*Images of this beach cleanup are available for download here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1zXtEg1KsStrwECqS-QZRzWI4TJk8O81O
About Migrasia Founded in 2016 as a non-profit-making online platform for domestic workers and employers to rate and comment on employment agencies in Hong Kong. By bringing transparency to agency practices, Migrasia aims to professionalize the migrant labor placement process to ensure fair employment for migrant workers, who often lack the legal knowledge to exercise their rights. In the short time since its founding, Migrasia has evolved from an online rating platform to an incubator of foreign domestic helper empowerment, and a social enterprise solution for human trafficking in Asia.
About Domestic Workers Empowerment Project (DWEP) Designed with the core mission to empower domestic workers, DWEP provides domestic helpers with informative lectures, training and workshops on anything from CPR, financial literacy, nutrition to women in leadership at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) on the weekend. As the world’s first-ever trade school for migrant workers, DWEP owes its success to the collaboration of the HKU faculties of law, business and economics, medicine, journalism, and media center studies and engineering.
About Plastic Free Seas Committed to reducing plastic pollution in Hong Kong, Plastic Free Seas makes clean beaches its mission through education and awareness in schools on the global plastic pollution problem, corporate events to encourage participation and understanding, action campaigns at various levels, and engaging in and fostering programs to better define and understand the impact of plastic in our marine environment.
About Soap Cycling Founded in 2012 as a charity organization that collects single-use soap bars from hotels in Hong Kong, to be upcycled and distributed to disadvantaged communities which lack access to sanitary resources, Soap Cycling is devoted to youth empowerment and community engagement by providing these members of community with practical and meaningful work experiences, and exposure to social responsibility.
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