Fri, Apr 17, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Blog seeks to help mountain village recover after blaze

TRAGEDY In addition to losing homes and one life, an Atayal community in Hsinchu County lost basic farming tools and vehicles such as trucks to the fire

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Determined to help the Atayal residents of a remote mountain village in Hsinchu County after a fire last month destroyed three houses and killed one person, a college student has launched an online fundraising campaign.

On March 25, a fire burned down three houses in Jianshih Township’s (尖石) Taigang Aboriginal Community (泰崗部落) and killed one resident, Chiang Wen-cheng (江文政). It took fire trucks two hours to reach the village along winding mountain roads.

National Chengchi University student Chu Li-shan (朱俐珊), who launched the fundraising campaign, has participated in a program to tutor children and help with farm work in the Taigang village for more than three years and thinks of it as a second home.

The community relies mostly on farming for its income, most notably its peach orchards.

In addition to the houses, farming tools and vehicles such as trucks and motorcycles that residents depended on for the transportation of their produce were also destroyed.

Most of people affected by the fire — including Chiang’s wife and four children — are being housed by relatives.

“What can a college student do? What can I do to make some contribution to this community?” Chu wrote on her blog. “[The children’s] father is gone and so is their home, but they still have us.”

“The peach harvesting season is almost here, but they don’t even have the most basic farming necessities, such as boots and vehicles,” she said.

Chu said to help villagers return to their normal routines, she intended to use the donations to buy two motorcycles and one small truck for the community.

“Motorcycles are a key means of transportation [for the residents] to get to their peach orchards on the mountain and bring down the harvested peaches, especially on dirt roads,” Chu said. “Hopefully, we can raise enough money and send the stuff up before the busy harvest season begins in May.”

Although she had only sought donations through her blog and her personal network, more than 20 people have pitched in in two weeks, donating NT$90,000 (US$2,672) as of last week.

In addition to donating money, some people have spread the word on their own blogs or on online bulletin boards. A few people have inquired about the possibility of donating used scooters or trucks.

“At first, I was just thinking about whether these fire-hit households would be able to pick themselves up again after this disaster,” Chu said. “Now I am starting to realize that everyone is thinking how they can give a little to help those in need.”

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