Nifraz Rifraz meets interesting people who are shaping the world around them in Hong Kong.
In this issue we feature Rodelia M. Pedro, a migrant domestic worker and founder of Domestic Workers Corner, a help and support platform for the migrant community which has gone on to become one of the largest migrant support groups in Hong Kong
How did you end up in Hong Kong?
I grew up in San Remigio, Antique, with my mother, father and 2 siblings. My father (now deceased) was a driver by profession, while my mother owned a small store. I originally moved to Hong Kong back in August 2002 – almost 20 years ago – with the goal of financially supporting my family back home in the Philippines.
Most foreign domestic workers – myself included – come to a new land like Hong Kong leaving everything behind. I have been fortunate enough to work for employers who have been really supportive; however, during this period I have also been through some tough times, such as battling depression.
What inspired you to start Domestic Workers Corner?
Like many, at first I struggled to find the emotional and psychological support I needed in Hong Kong; my only way out was through the use of social media. This led to a desire to help others that were going through similar life challenges. That was really the starting point – it was an organic move that led the formation of Domestic Workers Corner (DWC).
Eventually, through helping others during my free time, I was able to regain my own confidence and strength. Sometimes, you can forget about your worries when you offer help to others in distress.
What is the purpose of the platform?
DWC is an online platform which offers help to those in need. The core objective is to keep members informed of their rights [as domestic workers], encouraging them to assert these when necessary. For those in need of further assistance, we refer them to the Philippine Consulate General or one of the many NGOs [supporting the migrant community].
I also use DWC as an outlet for sharing important events, news, information, and tips relevant to domestic workers, with the aim of improving their quality of life. Today, our Facebook group alone (DWCornerHK) boasts more than 123,000 members.
What are some of the key challenges domestic workers face in Hong Kong?
Mainly financial difficulties. Most domestic workers leave their families and come to Hong Kong hoping for financial freedom, a means to provide a better life for their loved ones back home.
Unfortunately once here, many find themselves facing financial pressures, such as getting trapped into a debt cycle with loan sharks. This leads to immense mental distress and even depression.
The main reason for this is often a lack of knowledge and awareness – both in terms of financial literacy, but also in respect of knowing their own rights as an individual. It’s very important that we have a support system to guide and support our fellow domestic workers. I try to use my platform to bridge that gap.
More recently, a lot of domestic workers have also faced significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, they have even been terminated and abandoned after testing positive. At times like these, we should all rally to help them, and to help each other.
What else are you involved in?
I also work closely with a number of migrant-focused NGOs, to bring about positive change in the lives of foreign domestic workers in my capacity as an influencer, moderator and trainer.
"Rodelia is an inspirational community leader, who dedicates her time and passion to support her fellow Migrant Domestic Workers. We are so proud of Rodelia, and all our incredible PathFinders Ambassadors!"
- Catherine Gurtin, Pathfinders CEO
Tell us more about your Spirit of Hong Kong Award
I received the Lion Rock People’s Choice Award at the 2020 Spirit of Hong Kong awards. I was really moved by this recognition. [Rodelia was nominated for the award by Pathfinders, both for her work with DWC and as a Pathfinders Ambassador]
The stated aim of The Spirit of Hong Kong Awards is to ‘celebrate the achievements of truly remarkable people who might otherwise be off the radar’ and ‘champion the selfless contributions of real people in our Hong Kong home’. I’m truly honored to be nominated amongst these heroes – it really encourages me to do more work for the community.
Any messages for your fellow domestic workers?
It’s very important that you build a very good relationship with your employer. You have to talk to them about your challenges, needs and wants on a regular basis.
Don’t keep things to yourself… Keep an open communication and try to be transparent. This simple step will solve a lot of issues – equally, they would also appreciate it.
How do you find the time to do all these things?
That’s an interesting question. I think as long as you love something, you can always find the time. I’m also equally thankful to my current employer for all their support and encouragement, as I wouldn’t be able to achieve any of these things without their support.
What’s next for you?
I don’t plan things. I simply go with the flow and always look for opportunities to help others. That’s my mantra!