When Hsiao-chin (
Now a freshman at Soochow University's Department of Social Work, Hsiao-chin said she chose to study the subject because she appreciated all the help she had received and enjoyed helping others in return.
"I am grateful that my `big sister' Ssu-chi has been helping me and I am lucky and happy that I have had the chance to meet and get to know her," Hsiao-chin said.
Hsiao-chin is one of a large number of children who have benefited from programs established by World Vision Taiwan. Her "big sister" and sponsor, Chen Ssu-chi (陳思綺), has been supporting her for 17 years.
Chen, a 34-year-old mechanical engineer, said that she started sponsoring Hsiao-chin when she was still at high school. Back then she was putting aside money she earned at a part-time job, which only paid NT$1,500 a month.
Chen dedicated half of that amount to Hsiao-chin.
For 17 years, Chen visited Hsiao-chin every year, bringing cake to celebrate her birthday. On one occasion the pair went to see pop singer A-mei (
"`Big sister' Ssu-chi is like a mother to me," Hsiao-chin said.
Chen said that the resulting friendship was important to her too.
"I'm glad that I've been supporting a child here because I get the chance to visit her," Chen said.
The two women met once more yesterday during a press conference held by World Vision Taiwan. The organization urged the public to give needy children a Christmas gift that would last for a whole year -- by donating to and sponsoring the organization's programs.
World Vision Taiwan director Hank Du said they hoped to find sponsors next year for an additional 30,000 children. Sponsorship for children costs NT$2,000 a month.
The organization also hoped to attract support for 8,000 more children overseas, at NT$1,000 a month.
"The money will mainly help children with their education, health expenses and emergency care," Du said.
Thomas Huang is an executive in his 40s at a futures company, and has participated in World Vision programs for six years, sponsoring 22 children across five continents.
Huang said that he had received a lot more in return than what he had given.
"Very often I would tell myself if I didn't work hard then I wouldn't be able to pay for the children's food, and that thought would push me to work harder. My work has been going very well as a result," Huang said.
He carried a photo of a child he sponsors in Malawi. The child had a splendid smile.
"Although he is poor, he looks very happy. A child's smile is the best thing in the world," he said.