Education is the key to helping a family stay out of poverty, the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) said yesterday, adding that if given the opportunity, a family in need could achieve success and one day help others.
A woman who wished to be identified by her surname, Hsieh, shared her story at a press conference held by the foundation in Taipei.
Hsieh said she and her husband had run a pottery factory in Miaoli County with around 100 employees that made millions of NT dollars a month.
But everything changed when her husband died of cancer in 1986, she said.
“I closed the factory within a few years because I didn’t know how to run a business and started working part-time jobs as a janitor and caregiver,” Hsieh said.
But she had four children to feed.
“At the worst of times, I only had NT$10 a day to spend on meals,” Hsieh said. “At the time, NT$10 could buy a small pack of noodles, so I would cook the noodles with vegetables that I grew myself. We lived like that for two years.”
Things turned around for Hsieh when she joined a family development program organized by the TFCF in cooperation with the Chinatrust Charity Foundation.
“The 23 TFCF centers across the country would pick out ambitious families from the 42,000 families under their care. [It] would then ask them to write a development proposal and put [the families] in skills training, financial management and child-parent interaction courses,” Chinatrust Foundation staffer Lin Mei-yin (林美吟) said.
After one year of training, families that achieved their goals and had not missed any of the classes would receive a cash award, Lin said.
With the job training she had, Hsieh set up a cleaning company.
“Starting from a one-person firm, I was eventually able to hire 10 employees — all from economically disadvantaged families,” Hsieh said with a smile.
Later, she opened a bakery, with all profits going to local elementary and junior high schools to offer scholarships to students from low-income families.
During the four years since the program began, more than 30,000 people have been helped, Lin said.
“At this moment, we have the largest number of people living in poverty in a decade,” said Paul Shiao (蕭琮琦), head of TFCF’s social work department.
Statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior indicate that an additional 90,846 households fell into the “low-income” category in the third quarter of this year, bringing the total figure to 218,180.
Shiao said the number of economically disadvantaged households and individuals in the TFCF’s poverty support service “have reached record highs since the TFCF was first created 58 years ago.”
“We believe that education is the best tool to bring families out of poverty,” he said.
“However, many economically disadvantaged families cannot afford education for their children, so there’s a sort of ‘poverty cycle,” Shiao said. “That’s why we initiated this program four years ago, hoping to enable more families living in poverty to stand up on their own.”