A college lecturer who has collected bread rolls and loaves from bakeries for three years to distribute to people living in remote mountain villages every week is now known by indigenous children in Pingtung County as their “bread winner.”
Wang Chang-ju (王常如), a lecturer at Fooyin University in Kaohsiung County, has never taken time off distributing food in Sandimen Township (三地門), a mountainous area populated by the Rukai tribe, since being told more than three years ago that children there needed “bread” far more than money or video games.
Wang, currently a doctorate candidate in dentistry at Kaohsiung Medical University, was in the area doing research on betel nuts and their impact on indigenous culture when she discovered that children in the township were generally shorter and thinner than their counterparts elsewhere in Taiwan.
She learned that Sandimen was an economic backwater lacking basic necessities because of poor transportation links. Because of the lack of access, most children suffered malnutrition.
“There wasn’t even a bakery there,” she said.
Because children in the isolated village dreamed of “having bread to eat,” Wang launched her bread donation program. But it got off to a bumpy start.
When she asked bakeries in the Kaohsiung area to donate their unwanted bread to the cause, many mistook her for a fraudster trying to con them into giving away their bread.
Undaunted, she visited one bakery after another throughout Kaohsiung City and County, telling them she wanted to collect unwanted but edible rolls or toast for malnourished children living in the mountains of Pingtung County.
Her persistence paid off. She eventually recruited 16 bakeries to regularly contribute bread.
After collecting the bread, Wang and two friends drove from Kaohsiung to Pingtung to deliver it to the eager children. Over the years, Wang and her friends have brought more than 50,000 rolls to the township annually, and their compassionate deed has inspired others.
Members of the Chiayi Charity Organization based in Chiayi County decided to rebuild a bridge in Wutai (霧台) — another Rukai township bordering Sandimen — that had been damaged by a typhoon many years ago. After raising NT$10 million (US$304,800) for the project, the organization began construction of the bridge early this year and completed it on May 23. It was the 400th bridge that the charity group has built in Taiwan at its own expense.
Wang said the bridge would serve as a new lifeline for residents of the township.
Wang has also helped Sandimen farmers sell their crops to several restaurants located near Kaohsiung Medical University, and has arranged for the restaurants to give their leftovers to the farmers to be used in making soap or organic fertilizers.
All of these activities, Wang said, have only one purpose, one that she remains committed to.
“I hope our ‘bread trips’ to the mountains will have an even greater impact on improving the well-being of people living up there,” she said.