Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Taiwanese help children in Mongolia

REACHING OUT World Vision Taiwan is opening its fourth aid project in a country where poor children sometimes escape the cold in underground sewage systems

CNA , TAIPEI

Lee Hung-kuang (李洪光) and his wife, who lost their only daughter, aged six, several months ago, seem to have regained meaning in their life recently after adopting two children in Mongolia.

Accompanied by Hank Du (杜明翰), president of World Vision Taiwan, the Lees went to Mongolia earlier this month to meet their newly adopted children -- a six-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl.

The Lees were so overwhelmingly enthusiastic that they probably emptied an entire department store's children's section before heading to Ulan Bator, according to Du. The Lees spent more than one hour in their first meeting with their new son and daughter just on handing out gifts, Du said.

Du accompanied several "new parents" from Taiwan to Mongolia this month. The group also visited Arvayheer -- a barren area to the northwest of the Gobi Desert -- where World Vision Taiwan is opening its fourth children's aid project in Mongolia, following similar projects in Ulan Bator, Bulgan and Dungobi.

"We now need 500 Taiwanese parents to adopt or financially aid 500 orphans or children from poor families in Arvayheer for the new project," Du announced in a meeting with some adoptive parents in Taipei on Sunday.

In Arvayheer, World Vision Taiwan is not only taking care of children who are orphans or from poor families, the organization is also helping the locals to start up their own vegetable farms -- a daunting task in a windy desert-like place without an irrigation system, Du said.

Lee said World Vision Taiwan's efforts allowed him to see another face of the world.

"The Arvayheer residents' resilience in surviving harsh conditions and striving to make a living moved me greatly," he said.

According to Du, 36 percent of the Mongolian population has an average daily income of less than US$1, while some 4,000 poor children are regularly out on the streets to earn a living because their parents have no income.

Du said he saw hundreds of children spend cold winter nights in underground sewage systems in Ulan Bator trying to keep warm with the heat from the pipelines.

He said he couldn't stand being in the sewage system for more than three seconds because of the stench, but the pipelines are the only shelter that the poor Mongolian children could find to survive in the blizzard-prone country.

Since 1993, World Vision Taiwan has operated a children's aid program in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator, offering hot food, clean clothes and counseling services to children in several establishments, Du said.

In Ulan Bator, World Vision Taiwan has also operated four "lighthouse" centers, where children can obtain education and skills training in addition to food and clothes, he added.

Currently, about 3,000 Taiwanese act as sponsors to about the same number of Mongolian children, providing them with financial aid, all through World Vision Taiwan's arrangements, according to a staff member of the organization.

The number of Mongolian children who have been aided by Taiwanese exceeds 10,000 over the past 10 years, the staff member said.

World Vision Taiwan has extended help to some 60 million children and adults in 180 countries and areas around the world in cooperation with other World Vision organizations over the past several decades, she said.

At present, the organization financially sponsors some 60,000 needy children at home and abroad, on an annual allocation of around NT$100 million (US$2.94 million), mostly collected from fund-raising drives, she added.

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