Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Women's foundation seeks finacial aid

RAY OF HOPE The Peng Wan-ru Foundation gives women a second chance at entering the crowded job market. It is facing a severe shortage of money

By Diane Chang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Students at the Lung-an Elementary School are guided in after-school activities organized by women from the Peng Wan-ru Foundation.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

When Feng Chiou-jen (馮秋娟) divorced her husband last year, she found that she had no way of supporting herself.

"I had always depended on my husband for money, and I never thought that I would need any savings of my own. He left me with nothing, and I had to ask my grown daughter to help me out," said Feng, a middle-aged housewife. "I was fifty, with no experience, so it was almost impossible to find a job."

Desperate for work, a friend introduced Feng to the Peng Wan-ru Foundation (彭婉如基金會), where she was told she would receive training as a housekeeper and find employment.

When Feng first took housekeeping courses last year, her tuition was completely covered by funds that the government had given the foundation. After she passed the course and was licensed, she began to work for families that had found her through the foundation.

"With a steady job, I started my own savings account and could support myself, so that I didn't have to depend on my daughter anymore. I am very grateful to the foundation for helping me in the most difficult time of my life," Feng said.

In November 1996, a DPP advocate for women's safety and development, Peng Wan-ru, disappeared after getting into a taxi in Kaohsiung. She was later found raped and killed, a victim of the pressing issue she had just been discussing with fellow DPP members. In 1997, the Peng Wan-ru Foundation, which has no political affiliation, was established in the hope that Peng's lifetime work could be continued.

The foundation isn't just a charity organization; it is a service that aims to create a universal welfare system for Taiwan. This is a seemingly far-fetched goal for a single organization.

But like its namesake, the six year-old foundation maintains high ideals of creating a safe society in which all citizens -- regardless of age, sex or income -- would be taken care of.

The foundation has seen a significant decrease in government funding in recent years, but executives maintain that the government would be helping all citizens by giving financial aid to their cause.

The foundation's main resources are currently focused on helping single women and mothers aged 30 to 60 find employment. It trains these women for their home-care and after-school programs.

After trainees pass the required courses, the foundation then matches these women with households or elementary schools that have expressed the need for such services.

This system benefits many parties, as explained by the charity's Assistant Executive Officer Wang Hwei-Chu (王慧珠).

"We are giving these middle-aged women a second chance in life, providing them with the means of supporting themselves by training them for work. At the same time, employers can feel assured that the housekeeping and child-care services provided by the trainees are safe and of good quality."

In its early years, the foundation's trainees served as counselors for middle-school students who teachers felt had gone astray. When the counseling proved ineffective, the organization decided that it needed to reach out to children at a much younger age.

"Children are like puppets," said Wang. "Without all the right strings, they cannot stand up at all. This is why we started the after-school program."

Mothers trained by the foundation go to elementary schools in their various communities after classes to aid students with their homework, lead them in games and provide basic guidance that the charity feels children need in the outside world.

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