Founded by Columbans in 1986
The Hope Workers’ Center was founded in 1986 by the Missionary Society of St. Columban, primarily to support local workers in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. The first group of Columban missionaries to Taiwan, five ordained priests, arrived in 1979, and began administering to the needs of local workers, establishing the New Life Workers’ Center in Taoyuan City. Due to a great need for these services, the Hope Workers’ Center was established seven years later, in Zhongli City, and began supporting local workers there as well. Before long, however, the center’s focus expanded as its founders recognized the needs of migrant workers as well.
Responding to the Needs of Workers
In 1989, as part of a pilot program by Taiwan’s government, the first group of migrant workers were introduced to Taiwan, primarily to work as domestic caretakers and on construction sites. The program was pioneered because government officials recognized a national need for a greater labor force. At that time, Taiwan was recognized as an aging society, and the workforce was diminishing; more people were retiring and fewer were entering their working years.
From that point, the flow of migrant workers to Taiwan grew steadily. Every year, thousands of migrants were beginning jobs in Taiwan’s factories, construction sites, fisheries, and as caregivers in Taiwanese families’ homes. These workers came in such great numbers for the promise of improved earnings in Taiwan, primarily from four economically depressed countries in Asia–Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The government system of foreign-labor regulation proved slow to react. In 1989, at the arrival of Taiwan’s first group of migrant workers, there were no laws to govern employers’ treatment of foreign workers. The Labor Standards Act of Taiwan had been implemented five years before, yet it did not apply to foreign workers. The Hope Workers’ Center lobbied for this to change, and, in 1992, Taiwan passed its first Foreign Workers’ Policy, affording migrant workers some sense of protection under the law.
Nevertheless, the system of foreign workers in Taiwan developed into a very profitable industry for employers and brokers, and the Hope Workers’ Center adapted to support migrant workers in its community.
The Hope Workers’ Center recognized that, once in Taiwan, many migrant workers encountered dire conditions. Faced by employers and brokers who often didn’t have the workers’ best interests at heart; at risk of mistreatment and abuse by housing coordinators; threatened with repatriation by a large government system of immigration; most of all, alone and isolated in a foreign environment, workers were frequently left vulnerable and without options in their new domiciles.
The Hope Workers’ Center responded to its community of workers, and expanded its programs to embrace the needs of migrant workers.
Five Major Programs Today
As the Hope Workers’ Center evolved to meet the needs of its community, it specialized its services into five primary program areas of support: assistance, education, lobbying and advocacy, community enhancement, and pastoral programs.
Since its inception, the Hope Workers’ Center has assisted workers in its community with resolving work-related problems through casework and housing support. We employ a staff of full-time caseworkers who are experts in the Taiwanese labor law and who are deeply passionate about supporting workers. We also offer a shelter for men and women who are victims of abuse in the workplace or victims of human trafficking.
Over the years, we have developed our education programs because we believe that to empower workers, we must educated them of their rights. Accordingly, we offer seminars and informational pamphlets about law that concern workers: from the Employment-Service Act to Anti Human-Trafficking Laws, from Gender-Equality Laws to Taiwan’s Health and Human Safety Law, from Civil Law to Criminal Law. Our staff work closely with all Taiwanese legal code concerning workers, and we believe that workers ought to have that same familiarity.
3. Lobbying and Advocacy
In our history, we have seen the development of labor and migration law in Taiwan, and we have sought to hone it to respect the rights and human dignity of workers. We continue to take on a role in shaping legislation that affects workers, and we meet regularly with the Ministry of Labor in order to achieve these ends. We are also connected with the Migrants Empowerment Network of Taiwan, a group comprised of NGO’s seeking to influence legislation on in favor of migrant workers.
4. Community Enhancement
As groups of migrants have joined our community, we have sought to welcome them. We encourage migrants to share and maintain their own culture upon moving to Taiwan. Accordingly, we organize festivals and celebrations for immigrant communities to demonstrate their culture through dance, music, and food. We hope to foster understanding between Taiwanese people and immigrants.
5. Pastoral Programs
To address the spiritual needs of our community, we foster faith formation through our Pastoral Programs. We recognize that a large portion of our community is Catholic, and we offer weekly mass in English for those people interested in joining as many as 2,000 regular parishioners in celebrating the sacraments of the Catholic Church. We also employ pastoral coordinators full time who are prepared to meet with people individually and support parishioners’ spiritual and emotional formation.
Operated by Hsinchu Catholic Diocese
After many years of being sponsored by the Missionary Society of St. Columban, the Hope Workers’ Center came under a new authority in January 2009. At that point, following careful assessment of best management practices, the center determined that it would best be able to serve its community of workers by operating under the auspices of the Hsinchu Catholic Diocese instead.
Although the center today is operated by the Diocese of Hsinchu, it maintains close cooperation with the Columbans, and is regularly served by Columban lay missionaries and volunteers.
The relational proximity of Hope Workers’ Center to its operator, the Diocese of Hsinchu, allows the center to continue performing service directly on mission to its inspiration, Jesus Christ. The center’s functions, and all of its employees, seek to embrace Jesus’s life as a model for service. At the Hope Workers’ Center, we seek to foster Christian community and faith formation, while also supporting people of other faiths.
We believe in showing Jesus’s love to all people!
In 2016, the Hope Workers’ Center celebrated its 30th anniversary. The center has been blessed over the years with dedicated staff and volunteers, and on the center’s anniversary we celebrated their efforts to support migrants. We celebrated together in a packed house, with lots of delicious food!
Our anniversary celebration was also attended by a politician who has expressed sympathy for our cause, Vice President of Taiwan, the Republic of China, Chien Chien-jen.
Embracing New Opportunities, Thanks to You
We continue to serve our community as well as we are able. Our work today is dedicated primarily to empowering both local and migrant workers in our community.
It is a continuing need at the Hope Workers’ Center that we have enough volunteers who help us to serve the greatest number of migrants with an optimal level of support. Please consider joining us!