Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Taiwan no stranger to foreign aid work

TAIWAN'S `MISSIONARIES' Since the 1960s, aid workers have been rolling up their sleeves to help the needy in those countries diplomatically allied with Taiwan

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

He stayed in Panama for seven years. In 1998, the ICDF deployed him to Nauru. The duck-breeding project did so well the mission decided to let local people run it.

"I was looking for Nauru on the map and couldn't find it. It took me a long time to figure out where it is," Pan said.

Pan brought his wife and two young children, aged two and seven months, with him to Nauru.

"In the third week after our arrival, I got hemorrhagic dengue fever. I had fever at night and felt cold and tired," he said.

Despite his illness, Pan had no luck finding the appropriate medicine or a good doctor in Nauru. He eventually went to see a Chinese doctor on the island. After getting a blood test, the doctor confirmed Pan had hemorrhagic dengue fever.

"He said I had to stop working and gave me some pills. I stayed at home for more than a week and used a mosquito net when I slept. I was afraid I would infect my kids," he said.

"At one stage, my blood capillaries broke and my skin turned red," he recalled.

Pan eventually recovered, and later began working on the mission's chicken farm, where he said swarms of mosquitoes would attack him. He had to wear long-sleeve shirts to protect himself from bites.

"It was really hot. In the daytime the temperature often rose to 42?C," he said. "My wife and kids stayed indoors with the air conditioner working 24 hours a day," he added.

Pan and his family returned to Taiwan in 1999. Two years ago, the ICDF wanted Pan to take over the technical mission in Solomon Islands because the mission leader at that time was old and wanted to leave the country, which had degenerated into virtual anarchy after fierce ethnic conflict.

Pan accepted the post. After his arrival, he set up fences to protect mission farms where he grew rice. He is now starting a pig-breeding project in the Solomon Islands.

Jeffery Chen (陳志福), a dentist in the Tri-Service General Hospital, was recruited by the ICDF to work in a hospital in Guinea Bissau in 1991. Chen learned to speak Portuguese and a local dialect in Guinea Bissau. He led a medical team to the African country, where he stayed until it broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1997.

Shortly after the country severed ties with Taiwan, Chen was ordered to lead a five-member medical team to establish a medical mission in Sao Tome and Principe. Chen established a clinic in the Western African islands and went deep into the jungle to set up 40 medical stations, where he practiced medicine and taught local villagers basic medical knowledge.

"People in Taiwan tend to think Africa is a terrible place. It is true life there is not as convenient as in Taiwan, but you have more time to reflect on life," Chen said.

"I thought a lot about what people really needed. People feel content if they have clothes to wear and food to eat. This is enough," he said.

Chen loves Africa so much that he brought his son there when he was only two months old. His son stayed with him in Africa for 8 years.

"It was really amazing that my son and me never fell sick, while most of my colleagues suffered various diseases. Some of them even caught malaria twice a year," he said.

Chen regarded his health as a gift from God and felt encouraged by his luck. "God is too kind to me ? I want to give while I am still able to give," he said.

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