When migrant workers in Taiwan fall on hard times or need help caring for their children, they head for a unique non-profit organization that has assisted thousands of people since its modest beginnings more than 30 years ago.
Harmony Home Foundation began as a private shelter for a single patient — stage director Tian Chi-yuan, who would later die of AIDS — and now has six centers spread across the island that take in victims of human trafficking, provide social services to migrant workers and offer a range of medical supports.
One of these, located on Xinglong Road in Wenshan District, has also become popular for another reason: maternity services. The three-story building, which attracts a large number of Indonesian mothers, gives shelter to pregnant women and then cares for their babies.
“At the beginning, women came from immigration, from the police station, or from the hospital. But now, they are sharing their experiences online, so we are getting more and more people to care for,” Harmony’s founder Nicole Yang told the Taiwan News. “If the illegal migrants want to go to work, they have to ask someone to care for their baby. Some will choose Harmony Home if they know us.”
There are currently 170 migrant babies at the center, including three newborns who arrived on March 22-24, and the mothers and their babies stay together on the third floor. The women will return to work once they have had some rest, visiting their child only on days off.
Parents are obliged to visit at least once a month to avoid their children being declared abandoned. The center said this had only happened a few times.
Two of the new mothers, who are both domestic carers, said they heard from other Indonesians that the center could assist with their labor and were given permission by their employers to stay there. One is working in Changhua County, while her husband is a factory worker in Chiayi County.
Harmony, which is run on a non-profit basis by a charity, will care for newborn children for up to one year, which allows migrants to continue in employment. Costs are paid by employers, who are required to provide full medical cover for their foreign workers.