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【HKFWC40】From Service User to Peer Counsellor and Advocate… - Portia Wong

Portia has been a volunteer with the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres (HKFWC) for over 25 years and has grown with it. From helpline counsellor to advocacy group, Portia enjoys helping others. With this selfless spirit, who would have thought that she was once a service recipient? From a service user to a counsellor and advocate, Portia has overcome every hurdle and has grown from her experience.


From Receiving to Giving

Portia likens herself to a "bamboo", thin and unbreakable, and her unyielding spirit is the key to sustaining herself in the midst of a downturn. Her past marriage was not a happy one. She was plunged into grief and helplessness and even thought about suicide. Later, she learned about HKFWC's "Women's Helpline" service by chance, took the first step to receive counselling, and eventually found a way out. Portia later became a volunteer after coming across a HKFWC's volunteer seminar, and helping many people who had lost their way in their life. Since then, Portia has joined various volunteer activities and advocacy groups to influence more people through her own experiences.


It's all about 'volunteering'

Portia describes "volunteering" as building another chapter in her life. "No one ever told me I could do it!" Portia used to think of herself as an "ordinary" woman, with no advanced knowledge or special skills, and no self-confidence. But later, as a volunteer, she began to try things she had never tried before, taking on positions she had never tried before, from helpline counsellor to mentor, even though she knew nothing about the work scope. Portia admits that volunteering has changed the way she looks at things. "I used to get caught up in things so easily," she said. She always blamed herself for the failure of her marriage, but her experience as a volunteer taught her that it is okay as long as she has a clear conscience. She slowly let go of her resentment and reconciled with her past self. Her unyielding character made her grit her teeth and move forward with determination. She found many people appreciating her along the way, giving her more motivation to participate in advocacy work and more self-confidence.


Discovering Herself Through Advocacy

At first, Portia did not understand what "advocacy" was, and she had doubts about herself. Staff at the HKFWC advised her to get involved, from organizing an advocacy group on maintenance policy, to meeting with legislators and doing a TV interview, Portia discovered that she could use her experience and knowledge to bring changes to society and make herself braver. "I have  met with Legislative Council members on behalf of the advocacy group, attended public hearings of Legislative Council to talk about setting up a department on alimony, collected information and stories on alimonye and domestic violence to reflect the local situation, and worked with HKFWC's colleagues to find relevant information from around the world. The exposure to more current events has allowed me to think more deeply and truthfully, and to see things more comprehensively and thoroughly." 


Portia said she had made it a rule to spend at least 200 hours a year for volunteering, and had invited more young people to participate in volunteer activities and advocacy works. Through her own experience and positive energy, Portia hopes to give encouragement to more troubled women and improve women's rights.


From the past to the present

Portia has been with the HKFWC for decades and insists on continuing to do so for one reason. "If people can help me selflessly, why can't I?" Portia said she enjoys the atmosphere at HKFWC, which allows her to train her mind, improve her knowledge and enhance her ability to respond and criticize through volunteer service. She is also happy to see that many people have become optimistic and confident service helpers. She is very satisfied with her life now. She also said that "I have tried and done everything I didn't manage in the first half of my life. Now I have no regrets at all and want to enjoy my life in the second half."


From the present to the future

Portia wishes that HKFWC will improve its existing services in the future and introduce more and newer services. She would like to share her own experience with HKFWC, "Try to be bold in everything you do. Don't look down on yourself, talk to others about anything and take  steps to be self-reliant to help yourself and others." In the future, Portia hopes to see more people coming to serve and grow together!



Interviewed by Presley Lai

Edited by Presley Lai, Angus Wong & Alvin Chung