A 31-year old Filipino domestic worker is scheduled to undergo a kidney transplant later this month, an operation that her Hong Kong employer and several other good samaritans made possible.

Norma Wenceslao was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in March. Her employer, Lyudmila Bikmullina – also winner of 2007 Miss Ukraine Universe pageant – then offered her help, bearing the costs of Wenceslao’s checkups and dialysis sessions along with her ex-husband.

Norma Wenceslao with family and friends.

“Ma’am Mila [Bikmullina] has been really kind from the start. Sometimes you hear horror stories about [maids and their employers] in Hong Kong. But Ma’am Mila, she is really good to me,” Wenceslao told Philippine Daily Inquirer. “She said she wanted me to live for my daughter’s sake and that she would help me as long as she could. To think that I have been working for her for only less than a year.”

Bikmullina’s friend, Michael Davies, also began looking for people who could put them in touch with doctors and possible kidney donors in the Philippines. They also enlisted the help of Gilbert Legaspi, president of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong.

Norma Wenceslao, her husband Roberto (second from the right) and other prospective donors.

Wenceslao flew to Manila in July where she was reunited with her husband Roberto and their six-year old daughter. After a pre-screening, a nephew of Wenceslao was eventually chosen out of four possible organ donors. Her kidney transplant is scheduled for September 22 at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in the Philippines.

Wenceslao said that she couldn’t thank them enough. According to Wenceslao, Bikmullina and Kaye have already spent more than half a million pesos (around HK$82,000) on her treatment, and doctors said that the remaining operation and tests could cost a total of 1.8 million pesos (around HK$300,000).

Currently, there are around 178,000 Filipino domestic workers and 150,000 Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. The US Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) recently gave Hong Kong a Tier 2 ranking for failing to comply with minimum levels to combat trafficking, citing migrant domestic workers as a group particularly vulnerable to trafficking. This year, an employer was fined HK$15,000 and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for physically abusing Indonesian domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.