Sun, Oct 08, 2006 - Page 18 News List

The traveling humanitarian

Traveler, editor and international aid worker, Wang Chih-hong strives to meet the highest challenges in life

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wang Chih-hong photographs wild animals, a physically demanding task when 5,000m above sea level on the Tibetan Plateau.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WANG CHIH-HONG

When talking to the editor-in-chief of Rhythms Monthly (經典雜誌) Wang Chih-hong (王志宏), it is hard to image that the soft-speaking, svelte gentleman in front of you is an intrepid traveler and international aid worker who has been living his life to the full, lending a helping hand to people in need around the world.

A legendary figure in the eyes of the adventurous, Wang began his long-term marriage to traveling as a photographer at the Earth Geographic Monthly (大地地理雜誌). Four years of journalism made Wang a global trekker, but he gradually grew weary of short trips that could only allow him to scratch the surface of the cultural and historic immensities of each destination. So he did what many people dream about but never dare to do: he quit his job and embarked on a journey to remote areas of the world.

“Social status is of no importance to me. I want to live my life on the ground and be true to myself so that I don’t have any regrets,” Wang said.

Young and fearless, Wang ventured deep into Tibet in 1990, an isolated region that was closed to foreigners, and began his decade-long journalistic project on the land and its people. As a volunteer for the China Exploration and Research Society, Wang had also thrown himself into conservation work in the remoter regions of China, spending his days counting yaks and endangered birds, or joining the society’s expeditionary survey on the ancient silk road in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Like a sponge absorbing everything he had seen along the way, Wang began to plan a project of his own. Even though five years of traveling in Tibet had given him enough material for a planned publication, the traveler felt there was something seriously lacking in his work. “The land had given me so much, and I felt it was my duty to give something back in return... . The nature of a journalist’s job is to get what is needed for his or her story and leave. But to me, that’s a form of exploitation,” Wang said.

Seeing how the lives of Tibetans on the remote Tibetan Plateau were seriously plagued by the lack of access to even the most basic medical treatment, Wang sought out professional support from doctor Chiu Jen-hui (邱仁輝). Together, they set up a medical training camp in 1995, funded by bank loans and donations from friends and family members. The pair trained Tibetans who were interested in becoming village doctors in remote mountain regions.

“The hardship the locals endure is unimaginable to people used to modern conveniences... . Take transportation for example, it often takes two days for a village doctor to reach his patients,” said Wang.

Now funded by the Friends of Tibet Society (財團法人中華藏友會), the project has trained over 200 village doctors who can provide medical aid and health services to isolated nomadic tribes.

The humanitarian returned to Taiwan in 1998 and established the award-winning Rhythms Monthly, a magazine funded by the Tzu Chi Cultural and Communication Foundation (慈濟傳播文化志業基金會). His return to the media seemed a natural move to Wang as he was always drawn to the idea of creating high-quality publications.

Hailed as Taiwan’s National Geographic, the monthly magazine positioned itself from the beginning as a pioneering medium that explores the world from a local perspective. “With backing from the nonprofit Tzu Chi foundation, we are free to do what the profit-driven media can’t; [that is] help to cultivate global viewpoints in the minds of our journalists and readers,” Wang said.

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