Kickstarter launched for film about the ‘Unsung Heroes’ among Hong Kong’s domestic workers

The untold stories of the mothers who make up the majority of Hong Kong’s 320,000 migrant domestic workers may be turned into a documentary by filmmakers Joanna Bowers and Tony Verb. By means of a Kickstarter campaign launched today, Bowers and Verb are teaming up to raise funds for their film, “The Helper”.

The feature will follow individuals from a group of Filipino and Indonesian mothers who work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong and sing in a choir called the Unsung Heroes.

In January, Coconuts Hong Kong shared I Wish I Could Kiss You Goodnight, a song in which the choir beautifully captivates the sorrow they feel in being separated from their children.

Combine that with the economic struggle of living on HKD4,200 a month in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the environmental struggles of working conditions (no legal restriction on working hours and only one day off per week), and the social challenges of employer-employee relations and cultural alienation when returning home, and you’ll see this unassuming segment of society has some harrowing stories to tell.

A foreign domestic helper calling home 
Bowers first began to understand about the all too common disconnection domestic helpers have with their families back home through her own Filipino maid. Janai Abad, who moved to Hong Kong when she was young as her mother also worked as a domestic helper here, has a psychology degree and plans to sit her civil service exam back home in the Philippines soon, “so her mother’s sacrifice was not for nothing”, Bowers shared.

“The Helper” will weave together stories like this and other personal narratives of the Unsung Heroes members by filming the group rehearsing and preparing for their upcoming performance at Hong Kong’s largest music festival, Clockenflap. It will also follow the women on returning to their hometowns, and interview their families and their children.

Bowers believes that domestic helpers are often undervalued in Hong Kong, and therefore hopes the Unsung Heroes’ live Clockenflap performance – which will be directed by esteemed Tony and Grammy award-winner Sid Sidwell – will also be “ a way for Hong Kong to say thank you”.

Producer Tony Verb added: “Idealistically we hope we can change the way in which these hardworking ladies are perceived”.

The current campaign’s goal is to raise USD80,000 (HKD620,500) which will go towards a grand total of USD250,000 (HKD1.9 million). Kickstarter donations begin at USD5 (HKD39), while you can also buy gifts for individuals involved in the project.

While these filmmakers are incredibly passionate and socially minded, they are also adamant that the project has an impact.

“We will meet their children. They will share their vulnerabilities. So we want to make sure it will go somewhere”, Bowers told us, adding that 51 percent of the proceeds will go to charities helping domestic workers in Hong Kong.

This Kickstarter campaign, live today, hopes it can facilitate the opportunity for untold realities of selfless mothers to become a documented truth.

Contribute here, and help #makethehelperhappen. (Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages.)

Body photo: KC Wong via Flickr

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