President Chen Shui-bian (
Chen said that the volunteer spirit is one of the most important values that the Taiwanese people can uphold, especially at this crucial time when the country is fighting the SARS epidemic.
Wearing a surgical mask and gloves, Chen scrubbed desks and chairs and swept the courtyard at a sanatorium which provides shelter for physically and mentally handicapped people.
Chen stressed the importance of helping others and acknowledged the volunteer spirit of the medical workers who have risked their lives to offer health care to others.
The Loshan Sanatorium, which accepts leprosy and mentally handicapped patients, was established 70 years ago by an English doctor.
To elaborate on the idea of developing a "Volunteer Taiwan," which he had proposed in a presidential campaign slogan in 2000, Chen has for the past two years celebrated the anniversary of his inauguration by participating in some volunteer work.
The president encouraged all people to follow his example.
But he had hard words for those who have shirked their responsibility and those who have been trying to profit from the spread of SARS.
"We have seen medical staff run away from the battle against SARS, and we have also seen some businessmen hoard masks for their own profit," Chen said. "Compared to those who have sacrificed their lives in the battle against SARS, these people have taken the path that leads to hell," he said.
The battle against SARS is not so much a challenge to the medical community as it is a litmus test of people's sense of responsibility, Chen said.
Commending the spirit of the medical workers who care for leprosy patients, Chen said that although illness and disease has brought fear and death to mankind, it is love and the power of people that can help us conquer adversity in this time of difficulty.
"We've seen many brave medical volunteers who have stayed on the front line to battle the disease. These people have been exhausted and at times, scared, but they have transcended their fears through the power of love, he said.
"This is the volunteer spirit that Taiwanese people should emulate," Chen said.
He also condemned businessmen who hoarded masks when the country urgently needed medical protective gear to fight against SARS.
Chen stressed the importance of keeping a clean environment while the country fights against SARS, adding that he hoped his volunteer activities will inspire more people to do the same to help contain the SARS outbreak.