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Out of Africa


I promised to tell you about how Christian Action serves desperate people who seek asylum in Hong Kong, so here's an example for you.  Some time ago Mary arrived on the doorstep of our Service Centre in Chungking Mansion, Kowloon, with two little girls clinging to her side. She was traumatized and in despair. The government militia in Congo, her home country, had detained and sexually abused her following the arrest and disappearance of her husband, who had participated in a national election. Mary knew no one in Hong Kong - but hoped that we could help.  We are actually the only drop-in service centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Hong Kong.

"The first thing I received at Christian Action was a big smile, somebody who listened to my needs and was willing to help, and someone who spoke my language," Mary recalls. "For the first time since my escape, I felt relief."

Our staff provided emergency shelter for Mary and her daughters and then relocated them to a family shelter. One of our interpreters helped her to apply to the Immigration Department, access basic assistance from the Social Welfare Department, meet with lawyers and register her children for school. To supplement the government's meager allowance, we continue to give her shelter and provide her children with a food stipend, clothes and other basic necessities.  Asylum seekers applying to UNHCR for refugee status must often wait two to three years before finding out if they are eligible to be resettled, during which time they are not allowed to be employed in Hong Kong.

“For the first time since my escape, I felt relief”

This long, frustrating wait can be both debilitating and depressing, adding to the trauma these people have already suffered in their home country, which may include persecution, torture, and sexual violence. Our counselors provide one-on-one support and help them access support from elsewhere.  In Mary's case we linked her with a local rape crisis centre for medical checks and psychological assistance to help her cope and begin the healing process.

While Mary and her daughters studied hard in our English class, French-speaking tutors volunteered to help the children with their schoolwork. The family also joined a French-speaking Bible study group through their new church. Mary moved ahead with her life and she not only took our computer course, she also taught other women how to sew as part of a handicraft project. The wonderful thing is that Mary has since been awarded refugee status - which means she is now to eligible to be resettled.

The needs continue to be tremendous; it is only with our donors' and volunteers' help that we can begin to meet them!  This is what Bonita supported when she ran the marathon in the Namibia Desert.  Perhaps you too could consider how you may help in whatever way God has gifted you.

For more information on Christian Action's work with refugees please visit:

Siew Mei


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