Fri, Dec 20, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Malawi gets donation of medical books

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A single e-mail by a Malawi-based Taiwanese doctor has triggered a massive donation of medical books and journals, along with other English-language books, by Taiwan's local and foreign communities.

Within three months, more than 1,600 medical books and 1,320 medical journals were collected by the College of Medicine of the National Taiwan University (NTU), plus some 1,500 English-language books by the African Salvation Club of Taipei American School.

So, when the dean of the NTU medical college, Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), symbolically passed on a box of medical books to Malawian Ambassador Eunice Kazembe yesterday morning during a donation ceremony, the ambassador was overjoyed. "I felt very excited," Kazembe told the Taipei Times.

"These books will not only help medical students in Malawi, but also the entire medical service in my country," Kazembe said.

Kazembe also lauded as creative the original idea, initiated by a young doctor by the name of Philip Lo (羅一鈞), a graduate of medicine from NTU who is currently serving at Malawi's Mzuzu Central Hospital.

Dean Chen's secretary said that when the dean learned through President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) visit to Malawi in July that Lo -- as an NTU graduate -- was serving in Malawi, he decided to e-mail Lo a note of encouragement.

"In his reply, Lo told the dean that the local medical school was short of books and asked the dean for help," Chen's secretary said.

Lo's e-mail triggered what he termed an "unexpected" response from the local and international Taiwanese communities.

"Over 100 individuals, eight groups inside as well as outside of the college, plus seven book suppliers in Taiwan donated generously," Lo said.

"Even Chris Yeh, the co-president of the African Salvation Club at Taipei American School, e-mailed me and consequently collected around 1,500 English-language books -- some fictional -- and also dictionaries," Lo told the Taipei Times.

The 25-year-old has chosen to fulfill his two-year compulsory military service as a doctor with Taiwan's medical mission in Malawi, rather than serving in Taiwan's military forces.

Lo said he noted the lack of medicine-related books at the medical college of the University of Malawi -- which is affiliated with the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital -- when he accompanied President Chen to visit the library of the medical school in summer.

"Students there were compelled to borrow a book from the library and then had it circulated among themselves -- for one or two days per person," Lo said.

"But when I remembered the piles of deserted textbooks in the corner of the NTU hostels at the end or beginning of each semester, I just thought that perhaps these books, if collected, could be of use to medical students in Malawi," Lo said.

Lo admitted that his move to write the e-mail was inspired by his counterpart Lien Chia-en (連加恩), a graduate in medicine from National Yang Ming University currently stationed in Burkina Faso.

As a Christian, Lien has e-mailed to his Glory Star Church (榮星教會) earlier this year to ask for donations of used clothes. Some 60 boxes of clothes were collected.

Lien then arranged a campaign in the middle of the year for locals to submit three bags of trash in exchange for a piece of donated clothing, in an attempt to fight the serious littering in the African country, Liu said.

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