News & Stories


When Changing Jobs is a Difficult Thing

July 2016

“Your goal is to help the women to leave the trade, isn’t it?” This is a common remark when people know that I am reaching out to women working in Taipei’s red light district. Yet there is no simple answer to this question.

As a member of the Pearl Family Garden team, our focus is to share God’s love with these ladies on the margins of society.  We also build relationships with older women who are alone or homeless.

Most of the ladies are aged in their forties to seventies. For many of the older Taiwanese women, it was the last resort for them to work on the streets. After marital breakdown with little or no schooling, they had to care for their children and/or elderly parents.  Yet some women continue to care for their adult children with mental health or addiction issues, or they are now estranged from them. Some struggle to make ends meet on the streets, but it would be more difficult for them to find other work with their failing health and lack of skills.

On the other hand, there is a stream of women from Mainland China now working in this area. Many have left their children in the care of relatives, to pursue higher paid work here. Indeed, many women below the age of sixty can still earn large amounts of money, much more than a graduate. But many of them also have enormous debts. Hence, they become enslaved to the work.

It would be difficult for many women to consider leaving the trade, as it was not an easy decision to enter it in the first place. The situation becomes more complex if they also have addiction issues. But we have witnessed God enact miracles.

Hua, aged fifty-five, had worked on the streets for twenty years when her elderly mother urged her to change her work as it is ‘bad omen’. We invited Hua to join our craft group and created opportunities for her to use the sewing machine, something she hadn’t done in a long time. After six months, Hua became more confident and started to look for other work with our support.

Hua was illiterate and had little work experience. But she remained humble in the face of multiple rejections. When Hua finally secured a cleaning job, it was apparent to her that God had intervened. Hua has now been happily working in this job for several years, and she is about to complete her first year of studying Grade One at night school.

Our craft group has been an important stepping stone for a few women to find alternative work. But we face a new challenge. Fifteen women participate in this group, and half of them are heavily reliant on the income for survival. They are mostly older women who are unable to find  work on the streets or elsewhere due to their age and poor health. This number is likely to increase.

The craft ministry has empowered these ladies to regain their dignity through earning some income, but it is insufficient for their daily needs. God has sustained this ministry through sales within Christian circles. But we have yet to develop it and other income generating ideas into a formal enterprise, due to our missionary status and lack of resources. Please pray for sustainable partnerships involving local ministry partners and volunteers, to enable the women to become self-sufficient.  May the women also embrace God not only as their provider but as their personal Saviour.

Edna McKelleher – Pearl Family Garden (Taipei)

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