Yesterday I attended orientation to Mission for Migrant Workers. During the presentation, three main topics were addressed: the plight of the migrant worker, how Mission for Migrant Workers got started, and what Mission for Migrant Workers does to aid domestic helpers in distress.
Today, my fellow volunteer Joy took me to visit a shelter. I really wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I was excited for the opportunity to spend time with the women. The first thing I noticed after entering the shelter were the smiles on the women's faces. They didn't know me at all, but they were so welcoming. We spent the next few hours there. I briefed two women for their upcoming appointments at the Labour Department. They looked so, so young to me. In Hong Kong, you have to be 21 to work as a domestic helper; however, many of the Indonesians are able to lie about their ages to get work. I don't know if that is the case for the two women I spoke with, but my goodness, they seemed young… Too young to have to be fighting court battles over unpaid wages. (Side note: I realize there's never an appropriate age to be mistreated. The reality just seems particularly harsh when looking into such youthful faces!) After I spoke with the two individuals, I participated in group English lessons. I also tried to learn some basic words in Bahasa Indonesia. I think it will take me a few more visits before I can remember them!
About halfway through our visit, a wonderful meal was presented to us. I was concerned that only two plates were provided for an entire room of people until Joy reminded me that the women living in the shelter are observing Ramadan. I was completely humbled by their hospitality in allowing us to eat while they were fasting. Of course, there were quite a few giggles among the group about my struggle with spicy food. Even Joy said it was very spicy for Indonesian cuisine. I drank probably a gallon of water and kept repeating "terima kasih" every time they refilled my glass. It was quite a sight to behold, I'm sure, but the women were so good humored. I look forward to visiting with them again.
At the end of the MFMW orientation yesterday, Cynthia summed up the discussion by saying, "We are happy to be here. We are sad to be here." I couldn't help but think of that statement today. I was so happy to be in the company of these courageous, joyful women, but I was sad that visiting them in a shelter meant that they had been so mistreated that they had no where else to go. Will you please pray for the women I met today, as well as the other migrant workers, whose lives and livelihoods are in flux as they await court decisions?