Sat, Nov 19, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Volunteers trained to help assist foreign spouses

LANGUAGE BARRIER Many foreigners who have married locals and moved to Taiwan are trying to help others by sharing their experiences

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Planned Parenthood Association of Taiwan said yesterday that since April it has trained 176 volunteers to provide assistance and healthcare for foreign spouses, and that such training will continue in order to help improve spouses' lives.

Association deputy secretary-general Liu Dun-kwei (劉丹桂) said the volunteers themselves are foreign spouses who have lived in Taiwan for long periods of time and speak either Mandarin or Taiwanese fluently.

Liu said the biggest problem for new foreign spouses that come to Taiwan is the language barrier, but that the volunteers can help them overcome that.

She added that even though they are called volunteers, they are paid a nominal fee of NT$100 per hour for their work.

Hsieh Ai-ling (謝愛玲), chief of the department of household registration affairs under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), said the ministry has been concerned about foreign-spouse policies and has been cooperating with the bureau in providing assistance for them to adapt more easily to local culture and lifestyle.

Hsieh said native-language learning was important for foreign spouses to make themselves feel more at home and also for the ministry's new criteria to measure the language ability and civics knowledge of foreigners seeking citizenship starting in January.

Foreigners can obtain citizenship either by completing 100 hours of language courses, or by passing a written or oral test in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka or Aboriginal languages, according to the ministry.

The program is organized by the Bureau of Health Promotion under the Department of Health (DOH) and carried out by the association.

Chen Huang-feng (陳凰鳳), a foreign spouse from Vietnam and also a teacher training volunteers for the program, graduated from the University of Ho Chi Minh City law school before she married her Taiwanese husband 12 years ago.

Chen has been living in Taiwan for the past four years, and has volunteered at the Taipei Municipal Women and Children's Hospital, providing foreign brides with health information, such as pre- and postnatal care.

"I hope I can share my experiences with newcomers, so they can adapt well to the environment, but I also hope that more people can volunteer and help out," Chen said.

Chen also teaches Chinese classes to other foreign spouses and helps train new volunteers, while at the same time attending graduate school at National Chengchi University.

A volunteer in the program, Huang Yen-chu (黃艷竹) received a graduate degree in Vietnam and was an English teacher before she married her Taiwanese husband and moved to Taiwan.

"My husband has always been very kind, and encouraged me to learn Chinese," Huang said. "When I heard of the volunteer program from my local health department in Tainan City, I decided to step out and help others who have trouble adapting."

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