Divas SCC: Made up of domestic workers from Hong Kong, this cricket team is making waves and changing perceptions

A small group of women, however, wearing helmets and gloves, and swinging bats, walk towards the cricket ground. They are the SCC Divas, Hong Kong’s premier domestic aid cricket team.

Jennifer Alumbro was one of the first players to join the team in 2017 when the Divas were founded by retired referee and local businessman Animesh Kulkarni and domestic helper Josie Arimas.

Little did she know that within the next five years, the Divas would reach Division 1 in Hong Kong and become the backbone of the Philippine national cricket team.

Managing a cricket team of domestic helpers, however, comes with its own challenges.

Hong Kong people employ more than 390,000 migrant domestic helpers or live with domestic servants who do the work of housekeepers, nannies, chefs and caretakers.

They often work more than 12 hours Monday through Saturday each week, keeping Hong Kong households up to speed. According to a recent HelperPlace survey, the average monthly salary of a foreign domestic worker in 2021 was HK $ 5,288 ($ 678).
Home help is a vital part of Hong Kong’s economy, contributing 3.6% of local GDP based on personal spending. This figure is based on the cost of the tasks they perform at the local rate and the value of the time freed up for mothers, according to a report released by the charity Enrich.

Hong Kong law requires foreign domestic workers to reside with their employers, making them vulnerable to exploitation – and sometimes abuse.

In a survey of 5,023 caregivers in 2019, 15% of respondents said they had been physically abused in the course of their employment.

And helpers often live in unsuitable conditions, forced to sleep in closets or bathrooms, and are on call 24/7. Stopping, however, is not an option as it could threaten their VISA status and the ability to support their families.

Alumbro was an education student and softball star in Iloilo, Western Visayas in the Philippines, when she was forced to drop everything and move to Hong Kong to become a domestic helper to support her young daughter. and his sick parents.

Like many helpers, Alumbro has not seen his family for more than two years because of the pandemic – his daughter turned 14 this year.

“It’s difficult, but I’m doing my best to adapt. And it’s not for me, why I’m here,” says Alumbro.

Team members fill up and chat.

Since the Covid-19 epidemic, caregivers have often paid the price for government public health measures.

In January 2020, around the time when the first case of Covid in Hong Kong was identified, the government has called on household helpers to stay home on their free day to help contain the virus.

Then, in May 2021, a single infection of a domestic helper sparked the mass test of 340,000 domestic helpers in Hong Kong, which followed China in its pursuit of a zero Covid strategy.

The government has been criticized for its actions, which have stereotyped aid workers as vectors for the virus, but Alumbro believes the Divas can change the image of domestic helpers in Hong Kong for the better.

“When I start playing cricket, I step away from the bad or the negative,” Alumbro said. “In this way, at least, we are raising the profile of domestic help.

Kulkarni says the team’s goal has always been to provide housekeepers with another way to spend their time.

“When it comes to empowering these women, I’ve seen a lot of them spend time getting together at Central or Wan Chai or something like that. So the best option is to get involved in as a team sport, ”he told CNN Sport.

Since their creation, the Divas have continued to grow stronger.

In 2019, the Philippines was accredited by the International Cricket Council. Although it is not a well-known sport in the Philippines, its popularity has increased in recent years mainly thanks to the success of the Divas.

Currently, nine of the 11 players on the Philippine national team are Divas. The opportunity to play for the national team sparked excitement for cricket in the helper community with many new recruits joining the Divas.

Much of them have played softball or baseball in the past, which makes for an easy transition to cricket. The core team is now supported by a development team and a Division 2 team.

“Everybody’s looking for us, ‘Oh, she’s the housekeeper [team], how can they do it? How can they train? Why do they win all the games? ”, Explains Alumbr, for whom playing for the national team is a dream come true.

As a student in Iloilo, she was expected to play at the national level, but was suddenly forced to drop out of school due to her family commitments.

Now cricket has given him another chance to realize his sporting dream.

“When I play [international] cricket makes me very happy … so proud that my dream is about to begin and I play for my country, not for myself. “

Playing against Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC), the city’s oldest and strongest team, the Divas are not flinching.

For them, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about playing the game and building community. Other domestic helpers often come in to show their support on match days, picnicking on the sidelines, providing snacks and refreshments for players on both sides.

The Divas cricket team now plays Division 1 cricket in Hong Kong.

HKCC coach and Hong Kong national team captain Kary Chan says the Divas are changing the face of sport in the semi-autonomous city.

“It’s really helpful because it lets more people know about cricket and it’s also very important, as not only a Westerner to play but any job or nationality can play cricket too. in Hong Kong, ”she told CNN Sport.

On the pitch, everyone is equal, says Alumbro as she prepares for the game.

“We’re just helpers here in the foreign country and they’re residents, but in this situation maybe there isn’t a difference in level of play,” she said.

Despite their loss to HKCC, the Divas already have bigger goals on the horizon.

Earlier this year, the Divas won the 2020 Women's Development League to claim their third straight title.

Alumbro hopes to one day return to the Philippines and increase the value and appeal of cricket in the country.

She is passionate about adolescent mental health and eager to use her years of education in education to teach children.

“Cricket is a very unique sport, not only for the mental, the physical, but it also develops good behavior,” she says.

Cricket has been a silver lining in her life and she hopes others will be the same.

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