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"The only constant in life is change."

Dear friends and supporters -
 
We apologize for not being in touch sooner… as always, much has happened since we last wrote to you.  We understand that every one of us as members of the Hong Kong community are continuing to face difficulty during this health crisis in many ways be it physically, socially, emotionally and/or financially in the face of uncertainty.  Yet we are so grateful for the support that has been offered to our refugee community who are among the most vulnerable members of our society.  We would not be able to continue our front-line services during this challenging period without many of you stepping forward to offer in-kind and direct donations (including masks, sanitizers, and grocery vouchers).
 
Our current difficulty lies in finding the balance between adhering to health guidelines to ensure minimizing potential exposure and spread of COVID-19 while recognizing that our beneficiaries face the biggest repercussions from curtailed services including our daily soup kitchen, distribution of in-kind goods (including food, milk & diapers), face-to-face counseling, language and homework support for children and most importantly, face-to-face access to our front-line case workers. While conscientiously monitoring the situation, we are hopeful that we can soon resume full services.

While challenges never cease, we take time to reflect on some of last year’s achievements as we also look forward to our goals for 2020.  In 2019, we reached new milestones and even gave our website a make-over!  See it here!  Despite last year’s transport disruptions impacting our beneficiaries' ability to reach our community centre and other programme locations, we maintained our essential services including over 9,237 meals, 715 counseling hours, and 6,637 classrooms hours in language, health and training programs in collaboration with our partners.  We also celebrated Jeff Andrews and Jonnet Bernal’s 10-year anniversary of service with CFR.  Jeff’s long-standing and self-less commitment to the service of refugees and ethnic minorities  garnered well-deserved recognition with his selection as one of Cathay Pacific’s Changemakers and as one of Junior Chamber Internationals’ Top Ten Outstanding Young Person 2019 Award. 

Our Employability Program reached a new mile-stone for a young refugee who secured a paralegal role with Clifford Chance. Employment for refugees is more than just a means to earn and support their families; it is a “life-line” that gives them self-reliance and a sense of purpose and dignity.  We need your continued support to identify opportunities for refugees to reach their full potential.  We were also very excited that one of our families started a new chapter in their lives following relocation to the U.S. last year after 15 years of living in limbo in Hong Kong.  Read about J's Story below.
 
Change is a constant challenge that also brings opportunities for new perspectives and new goals.  Several staff and long-standing volunteers started the next chapter in their lives and returned to their home countries.  We sadly bid farewell to Alessia and Janine (back to Switzerland), Kevin and Mike (back to the UK), Mhairi (now in Singapore) and Chris.  We miss each of them and are thankful for their dedication to our Centre!  On the other hand, we happily welcomed our new Education Assistant Officer, Delia Unternahrer; Case Worker, Samira Clemenz; Fundraising and Development Coordinator, Mary Ho, and our Administrator, Yanmi Ho.  

As we await for resolution of the health crisis, we are preparing for new opportunities, new hope, and new challenges in the remainder of the year.  Thanks to you, dear supporters, our doors remain open providing a home away from home for our clients.  Thank you, a thousand times! 
 
Warmest regards,
 
Jonnet Bernal and the CFR Family

           
2019 Highlights


Celebration of Human Rights Day!
On 10th December, we celebrated Human Rights Day at Fini's (Soho) who very generously sponsored our luncheon!  Human rights are important to all of us, every day.  Our refugee clients shared their stories of resilience in their pursuit to live with hope and dignity. We're grateful for all the participants who joined us on the day and our generous sponsors!





Richard's 15km Open Water Swim Fundraiser
On October 5th, Richard bravely embarked on a 15km open water challenge to raise funds for Centre for Refugees and RUN Hong Kong to support their various sports programmes. As most people know sport is a crucial part of life for mental and physical health. Through his amazing input he raised over HK$58,000. Click this link, if you would like to find out more about Richard's swim.
Thousand thanks, Richard!




Summer Camp
Our summer camps in July and August were filled with fun activities following this year's theme of "Jobs of the World".  We encouraged our kids to embrace Zootopia's motto: "anyone can be anything".  At the "Dream come true" education park, the youngest kids went on important missions as astronauts, police officers, journalists and surgeons. In the meantime, the teens were invited to visit real-world offices at Mayer Brown, Daly & Associates, and the SCMP, where they were inspired to aim their ambitions high.




Volunteer Appreciation Night
On World Humanitarian Day (19th August), we thanked all our loyal and hard working volunteers, teachers, counselors and supporters. Generously hosted by Clifford Chance, we, together with our clients, thanked our volunteers for their ongoing support and commitment to the refugee community. Their contributions are extremely precious  and we are incredibly fortunate to have this pool of talented and generous people supporting us in realizing our mission. We also presented volunteers with a personalized CFR bag that featured our clients’ handmade designs.


If you are also interested in joining our volunteer programme, contact us at this email 


Community Meeting
Our yearly community meeting was held on 20th August, where we addressed topical issues and received updates from UNHCR and updates on legal changes. Our clients were able to raise questions and voice their opinions.

We were honored to have guest speakers from HK Legco, Dr. Fernando Chung, UNHCR, Philip Thorpe, as well as representatives from our legal collaborators, Daly & Associates.

Resettlement at Last 
 
Imagine if you were forced to leave your home country and wait 15 years to re-start your life, but while you are waiting, you don’t know whether it will be 5, 10, 15 years or even longer.   After 15 long years, J’s dream of being able to have a permanent home came true for herself, her mom and her two sisters: they finally boarded a plane from Hong Kong to the United States. 

J and her family fled to HK in order to save their lives in 2005.  While their asylum procedure was completed and they received recognition as refugees within one year, the resettlement process took much longer.  They applied to several countries and faced rejection until finally receiving acceptance to the U.S.; this process was an emotional rollercoaster for J and her family.  They were incredibly happy when they got the news of being accepted for resettlement to the U.S.  Finally, the chance for a new life and a real future was tangibly within reach.  At the same time, having grown up her whole youth in Hong Kong, J was also very sad to leave the familiarity of Hong Kong and her dear friends. She was also a little scared of the unknown, but also excited to be able to work or to attend university and very excited of course to eventually receive citizenship.

However, after they received the good news, the U.S.’s evolving policies and quotas on refugees meant that J’s actual resettlement date remained uncertain got pushed back several times. Once, they had packed and had already said good-bye to all their friends, and given the apartment keys back to the landlord, when they got the call that their flight was once-again postponed. This was extremely stressful and nerve-racking!  No wonder it felt surreal to them when in November 2019, they actually boarded the plane and took off.

J and her family have been living in the U.S. for over 3 months now.  Initially, it was not easy for them to adjust to the new environment.  However, they slowly get the hang of it.  J’s younger sisters are going to school where they already made some new friends. J and her mom are both working.  They are considering moving closer to a family who were once also former beneficiaries of our Centre for Refugees.  J is very happy with her new life and though she loved Hong Kong she had lost hope for the direction of her future.  In the U.S. however, despite all the challenge, J has confidence that with hard work, she can get to where she wants to go.

Humans Of Chungking Mansion
Clients share their stories 
 
"In the beginning of 2005, my parents, my younger sister and I came to Hong Kong hoping for a better and a new start away from our home country. However, we came across a lot more obstacles than we anticipated. We were limited to many choices and options compared to others who were around us. Not to mention none of us spoke English to begin with. Getting anywhere, anything done was quite hard. Fortunately, we met number of people who spoke the same language as us which helped living and getting around Hong Kong a little bit easier. 
In year of 2006, my family's case got accepted by the UNHCR as a refugee. My family has been trying to resettle abroad ever since, with quite a few countries, though none of them succeeded."
  more
   In Memory
Aboma.

M. Isaac B.

Elizabeth

Oleg
If you wish to "Stand with Refugees" and support refugees in Hong Kong, then you can donate by clicking the link below. Please feel free to share this newsletter amongst your friends and family.



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Tsim Sha Tsui
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Christian Action -- Centre for Refugees · No. 6, 16/F., Block E, Chungking Mansions · 36-44 Nathan Road · Tsim Sha Tsui · Hong Kong