Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Thank you, my Taiwanese lodestars

By Kailash Satyarthi

My relationship with Taiwan dates back more than a decade. The children and youth of the nation love me like their father. For them, my wife, Sumedha, is mother.

Our bond of love gets stronger every time they visit us as volunteers at Bal Ashram, which is our long-term rehabilitation center for children rescued from slavery and exploitation.

Over the past 10 years, we have hosted tens of hundreds of volunteers from Taiwan and they are all family to me, my children at the Ashram and the entire Satyarthi Movement.

Taiwan happens to be the first country I visited after receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014. A couple of days after my birthday in January 2015, we flew to Taipei.

Celebrations began in the sky with cake-cutting and well-wishes pouring in from the crew and fellow passengers alike.

I was accompanied by Sumedha Ji, Representative to India James Tien (田中光), who is a very dear friend, and his wife and a few of my colleagues.

Upon landing, I got a rousing welcome from almost all the volunteers who had visited us in the past.

I was overwhelmed to see thousands of children and youth with flowers, cakes and gifts hugging me, taking selfies and extending greetings. It was like a second homecoming after the Nobel and the exuberance in the atmosphere was absolutely electrifying.

Over the next four days that we were in Taipei, all the ministries and congregations that I visited, I cut a birthday cake, making it the best and longest celebration ever.

Now, almost three-and-a-half years later, I am once again visiting my big, happy, extended family in Taiwan from today to Saturday. The love and warmth of my Taiwanese lodestars — my children as I prefer to call them — has brought me back. So here I am with my message of love, peace and harmony.

There is something remarkably special about Taiwanese volunteers. Although they hail from a small country, their hearts are way too large, full of compassion and forever brimming with positivity and enthusiasm.

At a time when the world is grappling with a trust and peace deficit, Taiwan clearly shows the way by lighting up the path of compassion. There is so much that each one of us can learn from our friends from Taiwan.

The Wake Foundation, Eden Foundation and several other organizations in Taiwan have given me and my children at Bal Ashram “best friends forever”— BFF as we say these days. Friends who we look up to. Friends who we count upon. Friends who inspire.

All the volunteers from Taiwan are so committed and dedicated to the cause that they get completely engrossed in engaging with the children at the Ashram, teaching them, listening to their stories, narrating their own life experiences, preparing case studies on children and earnestly striving to impart whatever skills they possibly can. Be it singing, painting, dancing, oratory, dramatics or any other life skill, they do it selflessly for the children at Bal Ashram with utmost passion and honesty of purpose.

The volunteers leave with enriching memories only to come back soon or send more of their friends to the Ashram to be with the children. They write letters and e-mails to the children at Ashram and the bond of love and mutual respect gets stronger with time.

I see my reflection in the children and youth of Taiwan. As a young child of five years I had refused to accept why a cobbler’s son of my age should not be in school like all other children.

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