Refugee counseling in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a city of incredible dimensions: Around 7.5 million people live in an area roughly the size of the canton of Uri - almost as many as in the whole of Switzerland. How do you find your way around such a metropolis? For Sereina Camenisch, it was less difficult than one might imagine. "Although the city is very hectic and teeming with people, I settled in very quickly. I tried to come to Hong Kong without any great expectations and just let myself drift," she explains. The great shared apartment where Sereina lives with two roommates and the fact that the team at her place of work is like a small family also helped her settle in.


The "Centre for Refugees" is a project of "Christian Action", a partner organization of Mission 21. The focus is on legal, psychological and medical support for refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, a broad educational program is offered. The center, where these people are provided with warm meals and clothing, among other things, is located in the middle of one of Hong Kong's impressive urban canyons. Sereina always walks to the office. The first item on her agenda after arriving is breakfast for the clients, after which she has time for administrative work. "My main task is to advise and assist the migrants. I inform them about the asylum process in Hong Kong, accompany them to appointments and conduct intake interviews with new arrivals."


In all these activities, Sereina can always fall back on her studies and internship experiences. "I studied social work in Zurich, where I learned a lot about conducting conversations, which I can now put to good use here. I also did an internship in Switzerland at a women's shelter and already gained valuable experience in dealing with various problems." What she likes best about her work is the contact with people and the spontaneity required for the varied areas of activity - you never really know what to expect during the course of the working day.

There are always stories that Sereina will remember for a long time. For example, a woman at the center told her: "I'm so looking forward to holding a real ID card in my hand at some point in the future and thus being able to decide freely whether I want to leave a country or not." The decision-making process at the Hong Kong Migration Department often takes a very long time. As a result, months or even years can pass before the asylum seekers finally have certainty as to whether or not their stay will be legalized.


At 6:00 p.m., Sereina has time for a visit to the fitness center or the Tuesday yoga sessions. On weekends, she often gets away from the hustle and bustle of the city. "I prefer to spend my free time somewhere in the countryside. Whether it's for a hike up the surrounding mountains with friends or a relaxing day at one of the many beaches." Hong Kong is incredibly diverse, which is what the Grison native likes. "There is a huge choice of leisure activities. You never get bored in this city, there is something for everyone!"


What Sereina missed most in the subtropical city by the sea - was the snow! "It was the first time I spent a whole winter abroad. And of course, this very winter was snowier than it had been in years..." she complains with a twinkle in her eye. Of course, she also missed her family and friends in Switzerland, but in times of WhatsApp and Skype, the world has moved a lot closer in that respect. Sereina is now looking forward to the time she has left in Hong Kong. There will certainly be many more memories and experiences that she will be happy to take back to Switzerland in the fall.


Are you also interested in a PEP! assignment? Here you can go to the currently advertised positions.


► Further information on Mission 21's PEP! program

► Further information on the partner organization "Christian Action

Hope thanks to your support

Mission 21
Protestant Mission Basel

PO Box 270
Missionsstrasse 21
4009 Basel, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 (0)61 260 21 20

Donation account Switzerland:
IBAN: CH58 0900 0000 4072 6233 2
Tax exemption number:

Donation account Germany:
Savings Bank Lörrach-Rheinfelden
BLZ: 683 500 48
IBAN: DE39 6835 0048 0001 0323 33
Account No. : 1032333

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