Dreams of a life: single motherhood in asylum

As told to Tegan Smyth

June*, from Indonesia, has lived in Hong Kong since 2006. She has a daughter, Emma that she is raising by herself. She spoke a few months after her original interview about her hopes and aspirations for her daughter.

Alice, from Togo, is also raising her two children alone in Hong Kong. Her children were born stateless in Hong Kong.

Both women are chasing dreams for their children – for lives left behind and the steps forward, making the best of their individual circumstances in Hong Kong. 

*names changed

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Photo: Bradley Aaron

Are your children attending school?

J: Yes, my daughter is in kindergarten, she will be in class two of kindergarten in September this year.

A: Yes, both my children are in school.

Does the government pay for school?

J & A: Yes. 

So what is not covered?

J: Transport is not covered but the school is just near my place. But for books and the times I’m just required to pay something [to the school], it is not covered.

A: Books and shoes are not covered.

Are the fathers of your children in their life? Or are you raising your kids by yourself?

J: I am raising her. We are not together. Her father is now married to a Chinese woman so he has papers. Well he’s there and I’m here… but he’s helping us sometimes, with whatever small things he can offer.

A: I’m a single mother.

Bradley Aaron_DSC_5052-2.jpg
Photo: Bradley Aaron.

So what do you think is the biggest problem for you as a parent, with kids who are also refugees?

A: It is very hard, you know. You have the kids and sometimes you need something and then they ask [for another thing] and you can’t buy anything, because you have no money.

Sometimes [my kids] say they want this one, they want that one… [at times], I don’t want to go out. Because I know they will cry and tell me what they want but I can’t give them anything. I’m not working – it is illegal. Having kids with all this, it’s very hard.

Sometimes I need to cry, you know. Because of that I don’t want to bring my kids to the park or somewhere outside.

Bradley Aaron_DSCF4261-2
Photo: Bradley Aaron.

What’s your hope for your children’s future?

J: I hope if he’s [Emma’s father] already established with his wife, he can help us… or help her. 

I just hope that the Hong Kong community accepts us and the government doesn’t make our lives more difficult since we depend on government help, you know? Things are already so difficult.

One last thing; what do you think Hong Kong people and the government should know about kids like yours? Children who are living like this, refugee children?

A: I just want to tell them that we need to be together for a better life for all our kids. Cos now we don’t know what the future is for them, refugee children. I’ve been here nearly ten years now. And there’s been no future, nothing for my kids.

They can’t stay like this. For a kid to know they are a refugee, it’s not good for them you know? But we don’t have any choice. Maybe in future, they can help us, and the government can help us too.


Writer’s note: Refugee kids do not receive assistance or subsidies for textbooks, bags, shoes. Parents likewise do not get subsidies for maternal care items (nappies, formula and baby/child clothing). If you have gently loved clothing, new nappies or would like to help a kid attend school for a semester, please get in touch with Refugee Union at info@refugeeunion.org

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