If you’re driving down Taiwan Boulevard (臺灣大道) in Taichung on Oct. 10, you just might see the words “I Love Taiwan” displayed across a 20m by 50m mosaic. And, the 2,012 people supporting this proclamation hope to make history by forming the world’s largest picture mosaic.
Shaun Bettinson, the organizer, hopes the event held at Taichung City Hall will shatter the current two-year-old Guinness World Record, when 1,458 people formed a picture mosaic in the US.
“I have a lot of passion for this,” Bettinson said.
So, it seems, do others. He’s enlisted the aid of nearly 230 volunteers for the day to register participants and give out T-shirts, stickers and balloons adorned with the slogan, “I Love Taiwan.”
Bettinson, an affable 32-year-old native of England who has called Taichung home for the last eight years, garnered recent media attention with a Facebook campaign that gathered thousands of photos of people with their arms jutting into the air as a sign of their love for Taiwan.
Participants were not only asked to submit a picture, but also to explain why they love Taiwan and state how the country can be improved.
Showing your love for Taiwan is as simple as taking a picture, he said. “You can take a lot from Taiwan. But this is about giving something back that’s bigger than yourself.”
The Taichung City Government is throwing its weight behind the project. The city will provide tents, water, tables and chairs for the Oct. 10 event, which will coincide with festivities celebrating the Republic of China’s (ROC) Double Ten National Day.
Double Ten (雙十節), as it’s commonly known in Mandarin, celebrates the start of the Wuchang Uprising on Oct. 10, 1911, which led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the founding of the ROC in 1912.
What: I Love Taiwan picture mosaic
When: Oct. 10 at 10am
Where: Taichung City Hall, 99, Sec 3, Taiwan Boulevard, Greater Taichung (台中市臺灣大道三段99號)
On the Net: www.liveall.com/event/ilovetaiwan
“Shaun is really great and really sweet,” said Huang Shao-fu (黃少甫), the chief of the city’s Marketing and Planning Division. “He’s bringing people together to show that everyone loves Taiwan.”
Huang said that Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) believes the outpouring of emotion for the country is amazing, especially since it’s spearheaded by a non-Taiwanese. Only during election day or national day do you usually hear people declaring their love for their country, Huang added.
Bettinson said that while he welcomes the government’s help, the “I Love Taiwan” campaign has no political agenda.
“This is just a way to say thank you,” he said. To Bettinson’s joy, throngs of others have also been empowered with national pride.
One photo shows 2,500 high school students in Kaohsiung standing in the shape of Taiwan, while raising their arms declaring their love for the country. In another, a baby’s arms are thrust into the air forming a “V” sign. Photographic backdrops throughout the island have varied from skyscrapers to mountaintops.
“It’s amazing how the whole community has come together,” said Patrick Byrne, an 11-year resident of Taichung.
Like many expats living in Taiwan, Byrne has his own story to tell of Taiwanese generosity — which seems to have rubbed off on Bettinson.
Byrnes’ son, Fionn, was born prematurely and needed medical care totaling NT$1.2 million. Without health insurance the bills seemed insurmountable, but Bettinson organized several charity events that raised enough funds to cut the bills nearly in half.