People all over Hong Kong work hard for admirable causes that help others in need. PathFinders is one such cause, set up 13 years ago to address and support the vulnerabilities of children born to migrant mothers in HK. We chat with the CEO about the charity’s ongoing work and current initiatives.
Name: Catherine Gurtin
Time in Hong Kong: 7 years
Where are you from originally and what do you miss about it?
Originally from the UK, I’ve lived in Asia for over a decade. My husband is from Turkey, my son was born in Singapore and my daughter here in HK; so when asked where I’m from I often find it hard to respond!
What is the mission or aim of PathFinders?
At PathFinders, we believe all children deserve a fair start in life. We seek to ensure some of the most vulnerable and unsupported children in Hong Kong are protected and respected, and their Migrant Domestic Worker (MDW) mothers are empowered to find a path to a brighter future.
Give us an insight into some of the work you do.
No two days are the same! Each case handled by our dedicated Crisis Intervention team at PathFinders is unique. Every mother and child in crisis who seeks our assistance is provided with individualised care, comfort and counselling. To prevent the root cause of a crisis, our passionate and highly trained team of MDW Ambassadors educate and empower their peers to make well-informed life decisions while working in HK.
We also provide support for employers and agencies when an MDW is pregnant; this is so they can understand and be guided on their next steps to ensure a crisis is prevented. Increasingly, we’re also working to raise public awareness and acceptance of a MDW pregnancy, her entitlement to equal maternity rights and the importance of job security to ensure her child receives a fair start in life.
What do you get out of this work?
I’ve worked on child rights and protection across Asia for almost 10 years. I’m very passionate about connecting and bringing people together in pursuit of solutions and common goals.
When a MDW’s pregnancy is announced or discovered, it can be a challenging time for both the worker and employer. Many rely heavily on an MDW to care for young children and ageing parents to be able to work themselves. It’s our belief that, with imagination, collaboration and a commitment to strengthening protections for the children we serve, practical and affordable solutions can be found. Fundamentally, if employers can be better supported to provide 14 weeks of maternity leave while also maintaining their own household needs, MDWs will no longer face being illegally fired, pressured to leave or resigning, preventing them and their unborn child being plunged into crisis.
Tell us about some of your achievements to date.
Since launching in 2008, we’ve improved the lives of almost 8,000 babies, children and women.
For PathFinders, 2020 was the toughest year in our 13-year history. Like many charities in HK, the social unrest and ongoing COVID-19 crisis had a profound impact on our fundraising. It was particularly challenging for PathFinders as we receive no government funding; we also aren’t eligible for large community funds, like The Jockey Club and Community Chest. Unable to hold our yearly Fundraising Dinner – which usually generates 30% of our annual income – we had to make significant budget cuts and rely even more heavily on the financial support of individuals, corporates and foundations.
Despite these unprecedented challenges and with enormous thanks to the generosity of the community, we were able to comfort and care for over 1,100 babies, children and women. In addition, we achieved a 31% increase in our engagement of MDWs to prevent crisis and educate them on the importance of making well-informed life decisions while working in HK. This was largely thanks to our 74 Ambassadors – MDW community leaders who went through our “Train the Trainers” programme and are now out there to empower their peers. This represents significant progress towards achieving our ambition of creating a sustainable community outreach model led by MDWs for MDWs.
And what charity drive or initiative do you have going on at the moment?
We’re currently running our “Help the Moms Who Help Us” crowdfunder, which will go on until the first annual Helper Appreciation Day on 30 May!
At present, we’re assisting 148 migrant mothers who are facing a crisis; on average, another 40 will call our crisis hotline or turn up at our community centre to seek help each month. They’re vulnerable, scared and helpless, with no one able to help them and their baby. The pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges these mums and babies face.
We invite you to make a gift of any size so we can continue to help every mother and child that knocks on our door, and provide life-changing care and protection whilst they are at their most vulnerable.
How can readers contribute or volunteer with PathFinders?
Readers can make a gift at this page. All donations will receive a pair of specially designed gratitude cards so you can send a note of appreciation to the #HelperHeroes around you.
Donations of HK$500 or more will receive a limited edition PathFinders Mask so you can join our #MoreThanAMask movement and share your message of appreciation!
Thanks to a generous donor, the first HK$200,000 of donations will be matched – $100 becomes $200 – doubling your impact and the help available for mothers in need!
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more in our Living in Hong Kong section