Hong Kong’s fifth wave of Covid-19 shows no signs of abating, with epidemiological modelling from the University of Hong Kong projecting the daily number of infections could peak at almost 183,000 in early- to mid-March.

As case numbers rise, stories of how the pandemic has affected – and will continue to impact – the city’s most vulnerable communities have emerged. 

Refugee Union has launched a food drive to help provide the city’s refugees with meal assistance during the fifth wave. Photo: Refugee Union.

Over the past two weeks, HKFP has reported on a domestic worker who was forced to sleep rough after testing positive for Covid-19, another who spent a cold night outside a hospital with her three-month-old baby waiting for admission, and a low-income family whose two-week “home quarantine” saw the sole breadwinner lose their job and fevers spread to all six members of the rooftop shanty household. As for the city’s refugees and asylum seekers, who struggle to survive in substandard living conditions and without the right to work, they rely exclusively on handouts.

A number of charities, NGOs and advocacy groups that support migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, the underprivileged and people experiencing homelessness have set up urgent appeals for donations of cash, food, baby items and pandemic-related supplies to help them meet increasing demand for their services. Some have launched hotlines offering mental health support whilst others rely on donations to continue their work. 

If your situation allows, consider setting up a recurring donation. While Hong Kong’s most vulnerable communities are particularly at risk now, regular giving allows non-profits and charities to plan ahead and effect long-term change. 

Urgent appeals

Bethune House

After receiving more than 10 emergency calls from domestic workers seeking accommodation, assistance and food within a 24-hour period, migrant women’s shelter Bethune House launched an urgent appeal with a goal of raising HK$300,000. 

Specifically aimed at helping the increasing numbers of domestic workers who have been forced to sleep outside because of positive Covid-19 results, Bethune House is calling for cash donations to cover food and water, rapid antigen tests, medical supplies, blankets, sleeping bags, and safe and secure accommodation. 

It comes after Ming Pao reported last Wednesday that at least 68 domestic workers were experiencing homelessness, many of them kicked out by their employers.

Food Angel

Food Angel takes surplus food which would otherwise be disposed of and redistributes it to underprivileged communities in Hong Kong, who fundraising ambassador Phyllis Wong said “are among the first to bear the brunt during the fifth wave” with many facing unemployment or underemployment.

Meals produced by Food Angel. Photo: FoodAngelHK, via Facebook.

“We have received a sharp increase in the number of cases seeking help,” Wong said, adding that there had been a surge in meal assistance requests “while the supply of food donation drops dramatically since our food rescue services have been hindered, as we have to reluctantly suspend food collection from various food donors and partners.”

The charity has a number of food collection boxes at Link shopping centres and Food Smart Buddy donation machines, which accept donations of dry foods and drinks with their packaging intact, oils and seasonings, non-frozen or chilled foods. Food Angel requests that everything has at least four weeks before its expiry date and no glass bottles. 

It also accepts cash donations for the production of chilled meals and other support services. 

Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong

Dedicated to helping low-income families, the elderly and the disabled living in substandard housing, Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong has launched an urgent appeal to provide 1,000 home hygiene packs containing face masks, hand sanitiser and rapid antigen tests to those it serves.

At the time of writing, it had raised about HK$175,000 of its HK$400,000 goal. 

Asian Migrants Coordinating Body

A coalition of 12 grassroots migrant organisations, representing those from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand, the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body hopes to raise HK$100,000 through a fundraiser set up to help domestic workers made homeless during the fifth wave. 

Donations will be used to procure rapid antigen tests, food and water, medical supplies and shelter. “We appeal to you to support us through this crisis,” the AMCB wrote. “Together, we can get through this.”

Refugee Union

Led by and organised for the city’s refugee population, who struggle to survive without the right to work in Hong Kong, Refugee Union is appealing directly for food and baby items – both in-kind and as cash or vouchers. 

Baby items are particularly sought after, including diapers ranging from newborn to large sizes, as well as wet wipes, face masks for babies and children, and formula for newborns and for infants from stage 1 to stage 3.   

In terms of food, Refugee Union welcomes donations of: bags of rice, boxes of pasta or noodles, cooking oil, tinned tuna or sardines, canned beans or soups, cartons of milk, biscuits and crackers, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, toilet paper and tissue and Panadol Extra. 

Delivery of any of these items can be made in person or by courier, Deliveroo, SF Express, GoGo Van, or supermarket delivery from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Saturday, to: Unit E, 2/F, Lee Fung Building, 315-319 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan. WhatsApp: 9828 7176 / 9446 7960.

Refugee Union has also launched a fundraiser for cash donations, which “are most flexible as we can then buy at local groceries the ethnic products that we eat at the cheapest prices,” according to the organisation’s website. 

Grassroots Future

Non-profit Grassroots Future works directly with Refugee Union, sourcing toiletries and hygiene supplies through donations of cash or Mannings vouchers, and helping support the cost of dropping off donations to Refugee Union. “We are also supporting parents with their children’s educational top-up expenses and running well-being activities online for our stakeholders,” founder Tegan Smyth told HKFP. 

Grassroots Future. Photo: Grassroots Future.

“Grassroots Future would prefer cash donations as [they are] easier to distribute,” Smyth said. It has launched a fundraiser to cover hygiene and personal care, and educational expenses.

Feeding Hong Kong

The food redistribution charity Feeding Hong Kong has launched a fundraising campaign to raise HK$2 million for 200,000 additional meals for families and seniors in need of food assistance. 

It is also seeking “outbreak volunteers” to help sort food in the warehouse, act as a driver’s assistant and support food collections and deliveries, and to be “bread runners” taking surplus bread from bakeries to Feeding Hong Kong collection points. 

Christian Action

Serving migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as others who are marginalised, displaced or abandoned, a spokesperson for the charitable organisation Christian Action told HKFP that “we have seen an increase in real need, the level of urgent support required and demand for more relief packages.” 

It urgently needs cash donations to continue to offer its resources and support to the city’s asylum seeker, refugee and migrant worker communities through its drop-in Centre for Refugees and shelters for domestic workers. 

Christian Action also seeks in-kind donations of supermarket vouchers and other coupons, personal protective equipment, and rapid antigen test kits, which can be delivered to any of their centres across Hong Kong. 

Justice Centre Hong Kong 

“In such unprecedented times of crisis, our in-house lawyers and social welfare caseworkers are working around the clock to make sure no refugees are at additional legal risk for being unable to make regular, mandatory visits to the Immigration Department offices, or at risk of missing key legal deadlines on their asylum claim during the suspension of some public services,” Senior Advocacy and Communications Officer of the Justice Centre Hong Kong Preston Cheung told HKFP. 

The centre has been offering legal services to refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong since 2007, but the pandemic is making its work even more difficult.

To enable the Justice Centre’s time-sensitive work to keep going through the fifth wave, the non-profit welcomes cash donations.

RUN

“The fifth wave has massively increased the level of stress and anxiety on an already vulnerable community stuck in limbo in Hong Kong,” said Virginie Goethals, the managing director of charity RUN, which aims to rehabilitate refugees through sports and education. “The mental health crisis will have a huge ripple effect on [refugees] and their children, more than any other community, as they have already suffered from trauma while fleeing their home countries.” 

Many of RUNs programmes have moved online, including their psychological therapy sessions, but when it comes to offering support for refugees’ physical health, “we are in full emergency mode,” Goethals said. 

The charity welcomes cash donations, in-kind contributions of food, and coupons for the likes of Wellcome and Mannings, which can be delivered or dropped off to its centre in Wong Chuk Hang. 

Branches of Hope

Branches of Hope serves the vulnerable and marginalised in the city – including refugees, asylum seekers and human trafficking survivors.

It has launched a crowdfunding campaign and seeks cash or in-kind donations of Halal food, canned foods, staple foods, cooking oil, daily necessities and medical supplies. In the long term, the NGO hopes to set up a team to directly distribute food to each household by district so that the community’s transportation costs can be eased.

Ongoing appeals

ImpactHK

The past week has shown that Hong Kong’s winters can be cruel, especially for people experiencing homelessness. Whatever the weather, ImpactHK provides holistic support to help this marginalised community transform their lives, but during cold days and nights it offers a “no questions asked” shelter programme to anyone sleeping outside. 

As a precautionary measure against Covid-19, the non-profit is not accepting any in-kind donations at the moment. 

However, its daily “kindness walks” to distribute food, necessities and warmth to communities across the city continue. Volunteers can still join these – now socially distanced – walks, while cash donations allowing ImpactHK to help those who are experiencing homelessness are also welcome. 

HELP for Domestic Workers

After receiving its first call from a domestic worker who had been made homeless after testing positive for the virus on February 16, the following day charity HELP for Domestic Workers launched a fundraiser. 

Within days it had exceeded its initial goal of HK$300,000, eventually raising almost HK$1.25 million before closing the appeal last Tuesday. With those donations, it was able to provide more than 350 bags of food and water, more than 60 medical packages and more than 50 bags of toiletries. 

“Thanks to your generosity, HELP will remain agile and ready to meet emerging needs of migrant domestic workers over the next few months,” the organisation wrote on its Facebook page. 

HELP for Domestic Workers continues to welcome volunteers, specifically those who can help with legal support, case work, and those with operations and communications experience. To find out how else you can help, you can visit the website

Society for Community Organization

The fifth wave has hit Hong Kong’s marginalised groups – including low-income families, elderly individuals and those in substandard accommodation – hard. With isolation and treatment facilities overwhelmed, it is not uncommon for Covid-19 patients to wait for admission or assistance at home. For those living in subdivided flats and small, multi-generational homes, there is a high risk of cross-transmission.

A subdivied flat. Photo: SoCO.

The Society for Community Organization (SoCO), which advocates for equal opportunities and provides direct services for poverty alleviation, estimates that more than 90 per cent of grassroots workers face unemployment or underemployment. 

Support the organisation with a one-off or monthly donation. Alternatively, SoCO invites volunteers to apply for a number of roles, including offering tutoring and counselling services to children, providing improvements to inadequate housing and helping out with basic administration, in either English or Chinese. 

Mental health support

Hong Kong Red Cross 

For anyone feeling worried or lonely, or who has been affected by the pandemic in any way, the Hong Kong Red Cross has set up a Covid-19 hotline to provide psychological support, health information and up-to-date advice on the latest anti-epidemic measures. Conducted in English and Chinese, all calls to the hotline will be kept confidential. The hotline – +852 3628 1185 – will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Red Cross Hong Kong’s Covid-19 hotline. Photo: Hong Kong Red Cross.

“We wish to offer a one-stop platform to answer the public’s enquiries on Covid-19 prevention and psychological support,” Bonnie So, CEO of the HKRC, said in a release. “We hope that, by providing information to those in need, they would receive the relevant and necessary social support,” So said.

Health In Action

Project Coordinator for Health In Action (HIA), Janet Sun, told HKFP that “asylum seekers and refugees are having a hard time in getting timely information of the updates by the government, as most of the information available [is] in Chinese and they don’t know where to get the information [in the] first place.” 

See also: HKFP’s comprehensive guide to mental health services in Hong Kong

To provide information, advice and self-care support for Hong Kong’s refugee and asylum seeker community, the humanitarian organisation HIA has set up a hotline and WhatsApp number, +852 4628 3691 and +852 6618 9212, respectively. It is also offering health consultations by nurses and pharmacists and has prepared information in multiple languages. 

As for how to help HIA, Sun said: “Give support to support the community, to [your] neighbours, and share love and care to yourself and then your families, friends first.”

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Mercedes Hutton

Mercedes is a Hong Kong-based British journalist with an interest in environmental and social issues. She has written for the Guardian and the BBC and previously worked at the South China Morning Post.