In light of JWB’s 10th Anniversary, we would like to celebrate our student volunteers, whose generous contribution in time and skill laid the foundation for JWB’s impact. Through our student volunteer programme, our team aims to cultivate confident and able young-professionals on the path to pursuing their dream careers. Stephanie Lok was one of them.
It was 2015. JWB was fresh out of the oven, with a small team, limited budget, and a makeshift office in Singapore. Nonetheless, JWB was marching strongly towards its mission – developing transnational lifelines to legal aid and compensation for victims of labour exploitation and human trafficking. Several horrific stories of abuse and wage theft on migrant domestic workers came out in the media which highlighted the urgent need for support in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.
JWB wasted no time in expanding to Hong Kong, bringing on new staff and volunteers, all dedicated to developing the networks and infrastructure needed to support cross border litigation for migrant domestic workers. Help came from all walks of life, law students, pro bono lawyers, corporate partners and passionate individuals. Stephanie Lok was one of them.
A Desire to Help
A law student from University of Hong Kong, Stephanie found her way to JWB after being introduced by a friend. Her personal connection with domestic workers propelled her to support JWB’s mission. “Growing up, my parents hired domestic workers to take care of my brothers and me. I would spend so much time with them, hanging out with them after school and sharing with them my deepest secrets. They were so ingrained in our lives that they pretty much became part of our family. I can’t imagine the sacrifice they had to make- leaving their families for years to take care of ours. I will always be grateful for them.”
“Knowing that domestic workers are so vulnerable to exploitation with no legal recourse struck a chord with me. As JWB bridges NGO work with legal skills, I figured it would be a great place for me to make good use of what I learned in law school. I wished to help the migrant domestic worker community just as our domestic workers had helped my family.”
One of Stephanie’s tasks as a student volunteer (or Legal Fellow as we call them) was co-authoring JWB’s Practitioner’s Manual for Migrant Workers: Pursuing Civil Claims in Hong Kong and from Aboard, the first comprehensive cross border tool for civil litigation in the city. Stephanie recalled the experience as rewarding, “Besides countless hours of research, we also had consultation sessions with lawyers to review drafts. As a law student, I appreciated the exposure and the professionalism I experienced, which reassured me that my contribution was valued. The manual is a culmination of efforts by frontliners, law firms, Legal Fellowsand many other individuals. I was so excited to see it being published and implemented in practice.”
Pro Bono Coordinator
After serving as a Legal Fellow for a year, Stephanie was promoted to Pro Bono Coordinator in 2016, leading the volunteer team for the Hong Kong office. “I was entrusted with the responsibility of managing new Fellows, and I allocated work to them and led bi-weekly catch ups. We were only 1-2 years apart, so I had to learn how to position myself to be an effective leader while not being overbearing. I was actively involved in the Fellow recruitment process, evaluating CVs and conducting interviews to see what skills applicants could bring to the team. Many of them were very capable and passionate about social justice. It was a relatively new and exciting experience for me.”
Through her work with JWB, Stephanie also met several key stakeholders. “We met with the staff from the Confederation of Trade Unions and Mission for Migrant Workers to discuss casework. Another memorable moment was attending a party held by a partner NGO and bonding with domestic workers over potluck and stories. I was offered a glimpse into their lives and I tried to share my world with them in return. These moments helped me realize the beauty of volunteering – the synergy between people and ever-welcoming and supportive culture. No matter where you are from or and what skills you have, there’s always a place for you.”
Receiving and Giving Back
Today, Stephanie works as an Associate at Linklaters practicing Employment Law. She cited her experience with JWB as one of her inspirations. “My time at JWB was very fruitful, it brushed up my technical skills, I gained a lot of hands-on experience conducting legal research, preparing trainings, and managing real migrant worker cases. My work there propelled my interest to study Employment Law, which is at the root of so many relationships and is relevant to most people at some point in their lives.”
Apart from her full-time job, Stephanie also helps with ad hoc pro bono projects involving employment matters.
“I am grateful to JWB for entrusting me with a high degree of autonomy to carry out projects and lead the team at my own pace. It bolstered my confidence to be an effective leader. Not many companies would offer such an opportunity to students. It was daunting at first – juggling between schoolwork and JWB work, but I overcame that thanks to the unremitting guidance of my mentors and the support from my teammates.”
For the new batch of volunteers at JWB, Stephanie recommends, “Try everything! Take the opportunity to learn and get involved in as much as possible. You’ll get to meet amazing people from different walks of life.”
“JWB, congratulations on turning 10! I am so delighted to witness your growth over the years and very excited to see where the future takes you”.
By PR Consultant, Alice Chuck