Single mother Agnes Sordan sacrificed the chance to see her two sons grow up in her hometown in the Philippines when she came to work as a foreign domestic helper in Hong Kong in 2015, with the stress of adapting to a new city taking a toll on her mental health.
But her life changed in 2018 when she discovered the Exiles, a touch rugby team comprised mostly of migrant domestic workers.
The team playing the non-contact version of rugby was set up in 2016 by the Hong Kong Rugby Union Community Foundation and Enrich, a charity for domestic helpers.
“Joining the Exiles team was a game-changer for me. The regular Sunday training sessions have had an incredible impact on my physical and mental well-being, showing me the positive effects of team sports,” she said.
“Rugby has not only provided me with a supportive community but also boosted my positivity and self-confidence.”
Sordan’s realisation that her struggles were shared by many other migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong sparked her determination to take a leadership role within the Exiles team, which grew from about 20 players when she first joined to more than 60 people under her direction.
“I knew and experienced first-hand the benefits of the sport, and I wanted others like me to have the same opportunity.
“I have actively recruited new players and taken care of existing members as if they were my own sisters. Whenever I saw teammates feeling down during training, I would approach them and offer emotional support.”
Sordan coordinates with coaches and players, ensuring effective communication by announcing training schedules and locations. She also manages team equipment and gear to ensure everyone has the necessary tools for the sessions.
She creates eye-catching social media content for the team’s Instagram and Facebook, highlighting the achievements of her teammates and making them feel recognised and appreciated.
Sordan has been selected as a finalist for the Spirit of Hong Kong Awards 2023 in the category of Spirit of Community. The annual event co-organised by the South China Morning Post and property developer Sino Group, honours the achievements of remarkable individuals whose endeavours may otherwise go unnoticed.
Having served Exiles teams for domestic helpers in Sai Kung and Happy Valley, and after creating a new one for those working in Kowloon, Sordan wanted to set up a team in Tung Chung to bring the benefits of sport and solidarity to a wider community.
She encouraged employers to be open to their helpers playing touch rugby as some might be afraid of injuries, saying the non-contact format allowed people to enjoy the sport with a relatively lower level of risk.
The sport gave domestic helpers the opportunity to enjoy physical exercise, which might not be possible during their Monday to Saturday work week, according to Aljon Rae Grospe.
The coach and project manager at Rugby for Good, a charitable support group centred on the sport, said the activity also offered the women much-needed respite from their usual work environments that typically confined them to small flats.