It's said it takes a whole community to raise a child. The American Chamber of Commerce in Taichung (AmCham) might seem an unlikely participant in helping raise Taiwanese children, but the organization is nonetheless spearheading efforts to provide the city's most disadvantaged youth with as happy a childhood as possible.
Jack McDowell, who took over the reigns of the AmCham presidency not long ago, is leading their efforts. "We used to have a Christmas party where we'd sit around and congratulate each other on a great year," McDowell said. "But I got to thinking, `Christmas is for kids. Let's do something for them!'"
The board members of AmCham got behind the idea unanimously, as did Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (
"This event is unprecedented in Taiwan," said McDowell, who hopes to give two Christmas presents to each of 600 kids residing in various facilities in Taichung and raise NT$1 million to help fund the neediest of the city's homes for disadvantaged children.
"This needs to be something we do every year. But beyond that we need to put this issue on the map and raise awareness of these kids' situation."
He hopes next year's Kidz Christmas Party will see kids in Taipei and other cities sharing in the fun.
The cause is close to McDowell, who spent six years of his own childhood in a Tennessee orphanage. Since taking up the project, he's toured several children's homes in the Taichung area to learn what they need, and then helped them get it. Lee Hua-shu (
But McDowell and AmCham's goal goes beyond throwing a Christmas party and fixing a leaky roof.
"We're learning a lot about these kids' needs," he said, adding that he hopes AmCham can play a role in overseeing the needs of Taichung's children's homes, blind schools, deaf schools and physical and mental disability institutions and see to it that they receive it.
"These folks have their hands full taking care of these kids on a day-to-day basis," he said of the children's home administrators he's met. "They don't have time to beg. I can beg for them."
The American Chamber of Commerce in Taichung needs your help in making this year's Kidz Christmas Party a success. Donations of Christmas gifts and money are still needed, as are volunteers to assist at the event. Please call AmCham at (04) 2205 0443 and ask Kathy or Jack what you can do to help.