It is not unusual for financial institutions in Taiwan to allocate a small portion of their annual earnings to charity, helping financially disadvantaged groups and fulfilling part of their corporate and social responsibility.
However, an increasing number of these institutions, along with their employees, have begun to take actions that go beyond handing out cash or checks to help others and, in return, finding a sense of fulfillment that money cannot buy. These include assisting the blind, counseling young victims of natural catastrophes and tutoring children from low-income families when their parents work extra night shifts.
In October, Chinatrust Financial Holding Co’s (中信金控) charity foundation arranged a seven-day tour in Taiwan for 39 children from Sichuan, China — scene of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that killed thousands last year. Seventy workers from the bank volunteered to show the kids around during the trip.
“They looked so happy everyday and wherever we took them to,” said Joanne Chen (陳瓊琪), a manager at Chinatrust’s charity foundation.
“We were so moved when some of them told us they had a hard time believing that people so far away would be willing to spend time on them,” she said.
The foundation, established in 2004, has recruited 1,700 volunteers, a majority of whom are bank employees. These people spend their holidays assisting children in remote areas with their homework and, sometimes, helping them learn English.
Tiffany Chen (陳淑芬), who works for American Express International Inc in Taipei, is also involved in volunteer work. Chen has joined her colleagues in taking turns to help elementary-school children from single families with their homework.
In support of this program, American Express allows volunteers to take special leave after 4:30pm so they can help the schoolchildren, aged under 10, between 5pm and 6pm every weekday.
Some 60 employees of the bank’s 300-member staff have signed up for the program, Chen said.
They treat these children like their own kids, Chen said.
“Many of us have kids of our own and understand how difficult it would be for the breadwinner from single-parent families to cope with work and taking care of the kids at the same time,” Chen said.
Chen said she enjoyed her time with these kids and found being a good teacher challenging.
“Although they are elementary students, some of their math and social science homework is so hard that, sometimes, I find that I’m not much help,” she laughed.
Doing volunteer work an hour a day has helped Chen realize the advantages that many people take for granted while others live in want.
Amber Chung (鐘珽琪), who works for Standard Chartered Bank (Taiwan) Ltd (渣打銀行) in Taipei, said she felt blessed with the opportunity to help the blind and others.
Standard Chartered gives employees a two-day leave each year to take part in the bank’s charity programs, helping the visually impaired or working as AIDS ambassadors to educate the public.
Chung once joined her colleagues to handcraft a special globe made of different types of materials so that kids from blind families could feel, with their hands, the size of the US, for example, or the geographic location of Taiwan.
“I was very glad to be able to help them out, although I felt like I was only making a small contribution to society,” Chung said.