What our Summer 2017 interns learned about domestic workers in Hong Kong

As the season draws to a close we say goodbye to our summer interns. This year, we have had interns join us from London, Toronto and Hong Kong, dedicating their summer to lending a helping hand in a variety of capacities. We are truly thankful to have worked with such hard working, devoted and conscientious people; here is what some of them had to say at the end of their journeys, for now, with HELP.

HELP: Why did you choose to intern with HELP this summer?

Ellie: My family’s domestic worker, Super, has been with us for 23 years. She is family. Her circumstance, when contrasted with those of mistreated domestic workers, must be deemed ‘lucky’. HELP was my chance to play a part in standing up for the mistreated and in changing the circumstances of Super from ‘lucky’ to ‘normal’.

Isabel: Having spent four years growing up in Hong Kong, I had an understanding of some of the issues facing domestic workers, but never had an opportunity to actively help. As a law student, the promise of hands on experience, interviewing clients and attending court hearings encouraged me to apply. HELP gave me the opportunity to learn and give back.

HELP: Would you come back to volunteer with us? If so, what do you hope to achieve?

Stefan: I would love to return to work as a volunteer. I really liked the fact that we could accompany domestic workers in legal processes, all of which, of course, can be very daunting for them. I would want to continue contributing in this capacity to ensure that domestic workers do not feel alone during these difficult times.

Sheldon: I would definitely come back to volunteer with HELP. I would like to harness my now more in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding domestic workers in Hong kong to do more to raise awareness of the problems they face on a daily basis. If I can do anything to help, I hope to never see the suffering of previous clients occur in the circumstances of others again.

HELP: What projects did you work on?

Ellie: I was a Communications intern so my work focused on the marketing and social side of things. The pride of my two months of work here were the HELP Newsletters I put together for July and August.

Yoyo: I worked mainly on the FirstHand experiential learning programme, a soon to be launched project which aims to engage school-aged students to broaden their channels of empathy, as they immerse themselves into the hypothetical lives of domestic workers in Hong Kong.

HELP: What new skills did you gain while at HELP?

Ellie: Writing has always been a huge part of my life, but my two months at HELP have exposed me to a whole new range of writing styles. What unites these styles is their power to provoke and move readers into taking action; I have learned how to use the 26 letters on my keyboard to engage people into making a positive change in our community.

HELP: What were the biggest challenges you faced this summer?

Stefan: I always found it difficult to see domestic workers choose to settle for less than what they were entitled to because they simply could not afford to continue fighting. My biggest challenge was being doused in the harsh reality that innocent people often do not receive the justice they deserve.

HELP: How has this experience changed your perspective on domestic workers?

Yoyo: Often domestic workers are seen as a block entity, as their occupation, rather than people working in an occupation. This experience has given me the honour of getting to know the unique individuals behind this mass identity.

HELP: What would you say to someone who is just starting to volunteer with HELP?

Isabel: The hands on experience is like nowhere else and I never thought I could learn so much in the space of four weeks. Everyone at HELP made me feel at home from day one and if you bring in cookies they will love you forever.

HELP: Biggest takeaway from your experience this summer?

Ellie: Everyone at HELP works with unbounded devotion. While this experience has revealed a shadowy side to Hong Kong, it has also shown me the existence, and the strength, of the sunshine that combats it.

Yoyo: What has struck me most, sharply and poignantly, is that there are too many ways to exploit another human being. My experience has affirmed that treating others with kindness and empathy should be an eternal priority.

HELP: What are your career plans and how have they changed since you started with HELP?

Yoyo: Working at HELP has confirmed, for me, my future in the sector of human rights law and shown me that there are many ways for me to contribute to the causes I believe in. I will be taking every opportunity that comes my way to do so.

HELP: Is there a particular case that stuck with you, that you'll always remember? Please share the details.

Sheldon: I remember a client who came into the office, pale, to seek advice on her circumstance: physical assault by her employer. As she spoke, I remember feeling this pull within me, a kind of instinct that told me I had to do everything I could to help her. Her case is still being investigated and I hope the truth will be revealed.

Isabel: The first time I escorted a client to the Labour Tribunal the outcome was favourable and she was so happy at her success, she asked to take me out for lunch. Over a coffee, she told me that I had given her the confidence she needed. I felt honoured and I will not forget it.

HELP: Any fond memories to share of your time here? Fun, scary, exciting, shocking? Do tell.

Stefan: I can write a whole book about the fond memories and characters I have encountered during this internship, but the highlight must be our spontaneous trip to Taiwan with the other interns and Betty, our deputy manager, over one random weekend.

HELP: What did you learn about yourself during your time with HELP?

Sheldon: I had always known that I had a heart to help people, but not to the degree I got involved with at HELP. It revealed that I had not truly been giving it my all and that I must and will strive to do so with all future pro-bono work I hope to do.

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We have loved having you all here and cannot thank you enough for the time, effort and care you have dedicated to HELP, this organisation that we continue to build together, and to the cause we all cherish. To anyone who is thinking about volunteering or interning with us, these are the kinds of eternally warm and welcoming people you will know and the kind of good work you can do by their side.