A bridge for migrant workers during the COVID-19 lockdown
In this week leading up to the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants on Sunday, 21 June, 2020, we share a story of hope from the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Wellington Archdiocese.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty across the world and Aotearoa, but especially to the temporary migrant workers in our community.
The Filipino Chaplaincy of the Archdiocese of Wellington quickly realised this and wanted to reach out and help. Outreach Ministry Head, Jofferson Gonzales said, ”We understood that there would be people who won’t be able to go to shops, or new migrants who are anxious and confused about the information from government, and may not be familiar with how things work in New Zealand.”
“Migrant workers won’t complain but it was our role to listen and help voice their concerns,” said Joey Domdom, one of the chaplaincy’s ministry heads. “They’re exploited in systems that are clearly taking advantage of them and the lockdown showed how disadvantaged they were.”
The chaplaincy’s goal is to help Filipino migrants become a part of the local Church community in Aotearoa. Knowing that they would be hesitant to ask for help, the chaplaincy did a round of phone calls to temporary migrant workers that they knew of to ask how they were, how they could help, or just to be a listening ear.
They worked with Catholic Social Services and Challenge 2000 to dispatch goods, like food and winter clothing, to their migrant brothers and sisters. “Our role was to identify these vulnerable people and their needs, and to become a link to other church agencies who had the supplies and were capable of doing the legwork – we sort of became like a bridge,” Gonzales said.
When asked what our parish communities could do, Domdom replied with a simple suggestion - just start a conversation. “Just be aware of the migrant workers in our community. Ask them how they are; how is their work; how is their family back home?” This is precisely what Pope Francis was implying when he said, “Who is your brother or sister?”