Thu, Apr 18, 2013 - Page 12 News List

When a spark lights a fire

A volunteer project in an Aboriginal village in Wufeng Township, Hsinchu County, transformed a defunct credit cooperative into a community center where Atayal youth learn about their cultural heritage

By Carina Koen  /  Staff reporter

“A very deep thing has been planted with this project. These children now realize that they have a leadership role to play in their community. They have been energized by the success of the project,” she said

At this stage the project came close to getting derailed, as the unused, derelict credit cooperative building where they had started the building process was, unbeknownst to them, on land belonging to the local government.

The authorities tried to stop construction because the defunct credit cooperative was deeply in debt, among other things. However, Father Barry, who is an accomplished artist in his own right, forged ahead and sold many of his personal paintings and his stained-glass, at auction — a process he said was at times deeply emotional, but also spiritual.

Through his efforts Father Barry managed to raise enough funds to pay off the credit cooperative’s debt and secure the land for the center.

“It was a miracle,” he says.

The center was inaugurated in late November last year and now provides a safe space where the children of Cingcyuan can learn about their heritage.

Resident Atayal teacher Laling instructs the children on different aspects of their culture, including teaching them the traditional art of hunting and traditional Atayal songs, as well as the Atayal language.

“We need more volunteers to help teach our children. Anybody who can lend a hand is welcome,” Laling says, as he hurriedly disappears into the center with three of his charges in tow, ready to present an Atayal vocabulary lesson to an eager and appreciative audience.

For more information on the project, including volunteering opportunities, please visit the Wufong Project Web site at:

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