Mentee Profile: How Trina Juggles Work and Service to Her Fellow Migrant Workers

June 17, 2022
Category: Capacity Building | People Profile | PowerUp Campaign

“I need to earn money to support my family in the Philippines. I am doing this for them”. Trina’s journey to Hong Kong is one shared by many who take up domestic work.

Trina came to Hong Kong from the Philippines five years ago in search of better wages to help provide for her family back home. Her work has been gruelling–6am to 9pm shifts only allow her to speak to her son two times a month. For many her situation, Trina’s one rest day a week would understandably be spent resting up for the week ahead.

Instead, Trina spends her day off helping her fellow workers as a member of the Progressive Labour Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong. (PLUDW-HK) She shared, “I volunteer there and is one of the organisers. During my holidays, instead of going out and sitting in a park, I help my fellow MDWs”.

Her union is run by and for migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Hong Kong, helping to educate fellow workers on their rights and how to stand up for them.  PLUDW-HK also publishes reports and research to advocate for improvements in working and living conditions.

Trina has been a part of the organisation since she arrived in Hong Kong. She carries out the core educational and advocacy missions of PLUDW-HK in her close engagement with her community. She spends her Sundays listening to fellow workers and understanding the challenges they encounter. These interactions also lead to recruiting new members, connecting them to orientation seminars and free training. The goal is always to share knowledge about workers’ own rights and how to protect themselves against exploitative employers.

“I need to help because being an MDW means working in another country. It’s very hard to be far away from families in the Philippines”, said Trina, when asked about her motivations for joining the union.

JWB engaged PLUDW-HK as participating union in its Hong Kong mentorship programme. The programme covered substantive legal issues commonly faced by migrant domestic workers, including employment rights and entitlements; sexual harassment and abuse; overcharging and loan issues; and union representation. The programme aims to develop the mentees’ case handling capacities so that they are able to effectively respond to requests for assistance with minimal support. As a union organiser who proactively reach out to fellow MDWs in her community, Trina was an ideal participant.

“Before, I was very timid and quiet. Because I was also afraid, especially when I was so far from home”, explained Trina. “My role in the union and the knowledge I gained in the programme make me more confident now, especially when I help MDWs. Even though I only share my knowledge and advice, the feeling is priceless for me”.   

There are still many MDW’s living in exploitation every day who have not yet found the courage to speak up. This is when the work carried out by people such as Trina prove all the more important and necessary. “Even though I do my best, some [workers] are still too scared to pursue their claims,” she said. This challenge motivates rather than discourages her, however. “I want to volunteer myself to serve my country. This program awakened my knowledge and really strengthened my capacity of handling cases. What I learned in Hong Kong can be continued in the Philippines,” she shared.

By Kiara Isabel Sales Agoncillo, PR Fellow @JWB

The PowerUp Campaign features how JWB scales up its impact through building capacity with our allies. Our partners, including mentors, mentees, funders and frontline organization leaders, came together to share their experiences in our capacity building programs. We also look ahead to how we continue to scale up our impact to ensure that access to justice is as mobile as migrant workers.