Hiking to Heal was our first programme started in 2015, focusing on 12 vulnerable women recovering from severe trauma. Now, it is a weekly sports programme that alternates hiking with other complementary sports activities such as yoga, swimming, self-defence, and basketball for a group of around 30 refugee women. In addition to sports activities, we also provide nutritional breakfast and lunch for participants, and life skills education, covering topics such as Parent Effectiveness Training (PET), nutrition, weight loss, and women’s health. A psychologist specialising in trauma directly supports this group.
In 2019, we provided 45 Hiking to Heal sessions for 39 women.
This is a weekly programme led by a professional running coach, Charlotte Cutler, for around 40 adult refugees (mixed gender), and offers a greater physical challenge than Hiking to Heal. We support refugees to participate in local trail races that span distances anywhere from 5km to 100km, because our experience has shown that working towards and achieving such goals helps to boost self-esteem, and participating in races helps to increase a sense of belonging and integration with the local community.
In 2019, we provided and 46 Track Training sessions for 55 adults and teenagers
As our refugee participants grew stronger through our sports programmes, they asked for opportunities to exercise their minds, just as they did their bodies. PATHS is a comprehensive adult education programme characterised by the following five pillars: Professional development, Access to education, Training and service, Help and mentorship, and Skill building. Starting in 2017 as a pilot study and mentorship programme for 21 participants, we launched PATHS in 2019 to expand the programme to all adult refugee participants. Learning new skills and developing professionally means that refugees have a better chance of securing stable employment in their future country of resettlement, receiving exceptional authorisation to work in Hong Kong*, and ultimately building a better future for themselves and their families. Read more about PATHS here.
In 2019, 32 participants improved their English from beginner levels through IELTS preparation and computer skills learning G Suite through our weekly in-person classes, and 22 participants studied online, earning a total of 30 certificates in subjects such as law, business, healthcare, and engineering. With exceptional authorisation from the Hong Kong government and in collaboration with our corporate partners, we were able to secure job placements for 3 refugees.
* Refugees are generally not permitted to work in Hong Kong, but we have received extensive legal advice from human rights and immigration lawyer Mark Daly about obtaining exceptional authorisation to work from the Director of Immigration in Hong Kong on a case-by-case basis. We are currently working with the corporate community to help facilitate exceptional employment for some refugees.
We support refugees to foster independence and learn about accountability and responsibility for RUN operations. Some of the ways refugee participants engage in our work include:
- Preparing food, decorations, and agenda for CSR events such as movie nights and hikes
- Organising our signature Great Refugee Challenge and annual RUN Charity Race
- Sharing their skills with the wider refugee community (e.g. newly certified caregivers organised a mini-health clinic to provide basic checks and advice to other refugees and asylum seekers at the RUN office and in collaboration with Health In Action) and providing study support to fellow students
- Participating in our Race Committee, which consists of a small group of more committed runners that help to choose competitions in Hong Kong for participants to race in and volunteer at, build training plans, and support less experienced refugee athletes in their races
Childcare programmes are a critical part of our holistic support to refugees, particularly to mothers, who are often alone in Hong Kong with their children. As some refugee children are unable to access kindergarten, we organise childcare during the day and sponsor babysitting during the evening, giving parents the opportunity to participate in our programmes and focus on their own healing journeys, while resting assured that their children are being cared for.
In addition to childcare, we organise sports activities such as track activities and swimming classes for children and teenagers, particularly over the school holidays. For some young people who may struggle with depression and other trauma-related issues, these sports activities give them a reason to get out of the house and be active and social.
In 2019, we organised 2 months of weekly sports sessions for 30 refugee children aged 12 and under (sadly suspended during the protests) and 11 teens participated in a 7-day outdoor summer camp, learning orienteering, paddling, and snorkeling.
We provide healthy food and drinks, specifically breakfast and lunch on hiking days, pre-training snack and a post-training light meal, and fruit and health snacks at our office during classes or self-study time. These are essential as participants often arrive hungry, particularly near the end of the month when their government food coupons are running out. We are delighted to partner with Feeding Hong Kong and Foodlink Foundation to cover some of our basic food items so we can keep our costs low.
To support our participants in their healing journeys, we facilitate access to healthcare services and resources. Our comprehensive healthcare support includes our volunteer healthcare coordinator, Charlotte Beckett, who meets regularly with participants to understand their medical concerns and direct them to the relevant services. We also have a very helpful partnership with Central Health Medical Practice, who generously provide pro bono medical care to our participants. A group of our participants, who are certified caregivers, also offer regular basic health checks in the RUN office to help participants stay on top of their health. In addition, we help every participant to get registered on the Hong Kong government’s eHealth system so that private and public healthcare providers around the city are able to access the necessary medical records to ensure they get the appropriate care. This comprehensive healthcare approach is especially important for participants who may be suffering chronic health conditions as a result of torture or sexual violence.
RUN coordinates emergency support for its participants independently and in partnership with other NGOs to facilitate access to healthcare, food, housing. Our partners include Centre for Refugees, Health in Action, International Social Services (ISS), and Justice Centre Hong Kong. We are also grateful to the following pro bono service providers: Annerley, Dr. Sarah Borwein, and Alison Mackay.