For almost 11 years Marrz Balaoro has been single handedly supporting Hong Kong’s LBGTI migrant workforce. But his hard work is about to be undone as his organization faces eviction.
The people that walk through his doors are minimum wage workers from the Phillipines. Most have been fired from their job because their employers found out they were LGBTI.
Balaoro gives them a place to stay, food, money for transport and even provides fun past times like; gardening and crafts to keep their minds off things.
A trans man himself who lives in Hong Kong because he can make more money than at home in the Phillipines, Balaoro saw a need to protect LGBTI foreign workers. He decided to take action and for the past 11 years has spent more than 60% of his own monthly income to help others.
The Filiguys Association of Hong Kong is the first Filipino LGBTI organization in Hong Kong and helps its community with employment and visa issues.
‘There were cases that they would refer Filipino workers (to migration agency services),’ Balaoro told Gay Star News.
‘There were cases that was special, they are LGBTI and they won’t talk about it, they were embarrassed.
‘The need someone who feels the same.’
Hong Kong relies on a foreign workforce of 330,000 people. About 130,000 of those worker are Filipinos.
Balaoro’s dedication is unmatched
Not only does he give his time, money and support to the LGBTI workers – he even trained as paralegal to help them with legal issues – he has raised his adopted daughter while working two jobs.
He works as a domestic helper – Balaoro’s boss is very supportive of his charity work.
‘I just want to make my time very productive, be able to help other people,’ he said.
But his decade of work is in a dire situation. He is about to be evicted from the rented space where he houses the LGBTI workers.
Late last year he developed a serious gum disease and could not afford treatment in Hong Kong, his health insurance does not cover dental. Balaoro was forced to travel home twice to the Philippines to seek treatment.
Paying for the necessary medical treatment stopped him from paying rent at his organization. His landlord wants him out by June 6.
‘I talked to the landlord, I’m hoping there are donations coming. I’m doing raffles and trying to sell t-shirts and bags,’ he said.
They only need to raise $2140 to stay open.
No protection for LGBTI workers
Countless people have sought help from Balaoro after they were fired for being LGBTI. He has set up a pool of employers who are willing to hire LGBTI people.
‘All LGBTI community members are entitled to our services,’ he said.
‘There are a lot of people (employers) who are supportive, they don’t mind, they care how dedicated we are to our work.’
Hong Kong does not have laws which protect LGBTI in the workplace.
‘Offering the LGBTI communities better legal protection is more than just a moral and human rights obligation,’ said EOC chairperson Professor Alfred Chan Cheung-ming.
‘Hong Kong should modernise its anti-discrimination legislation.’
To donate to Balaoro’s charity, click here.