As Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) basks in the limelight over his flamboyant style of charity, there are many Taiwanese who, for a long time, have given away their hard-earned money in silence.
In 1991, Tsao Ching (曹慶), the founder of Genesis Social Welfare Foundation, Huashan Social Welfare Foundation and Zenan Homeless Social Welfare Foundation, gave away 20 lunchboxes to homeless people because he was worried that they had no place to eat during the Lunar New Year. The next year, he organized a 10-table traditional weiya (尾牙) — a year-end banquet — an event that has now expanded to 2,500 tables.
These charities that provide homeless people with food, clothes and a place to sleep are made possible thanks to the care and concern of people from all over Taiwan, who donate money or their invoice receipts.
Chen Chou (陳綢), a 77-year-old living in Puli (埔里) Township, Nantou County, was given up for adoption as a child because her biological family was poor. She has had a hard life and never went to school. Forty years ago, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She pledged that if she was cured, she would become a vegetarian and spend her life doing good.
By making zongzi (粽子) — glutinous rice dumplings — Chen saved enough money to build a temple and encouraged people to engage in charitable work. She has also donated land and raised money to build a home for disadvantaged children, in addition to volunteering to help children that have gone astray.
For several decades, many students in the greater Puli area have received grants from Chen, and many of those children that have received help from her are now pillars of society and still grateful for her help.
In August last year, Chen found that the Nantou County Government was planning to nominate her for inclusion in Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Always taking a low-key approach, she asked the foundation to reject the nomination because she felt that the charitable work was based on the efforts of many people and not her alone. She told the county government that she hoped it would acknowledge her efforts and help bring more people and companies into the effort.
Another example of a Taiwansese charitable efforts is Chiayi Charity Organization spiritual leader Lin Ping-shan (林炳山).
Seeing that many were able to eat their fill, Lin called on people to donate time and money to build a big wooden bridge in early 1966. Today, more than 300 bridges have been built. The volunteers that build the bridges have increased in number from 30 to more than 200, and they include lawyers, architects, professors, school presidents, police officers, monks, workers, drivers, elected politicians, students, house wives and company chairpersons.
Yet another example is Liao Jung-chi (廖榮吉), who sells guabao (刈包) — a traditional steamed bread with filling — in Taipei and charges NT$40 (US$1.40) per guabao and NT$40 for a bowl of pig intestine soup.
He has to work hard to make a living, but every year on the night before Lunar New Year’s Eve, he organizes a banquet for homeless people, that is known as “the warmest of all new year dinners.”
To help Liao continue the tradition, last year, a group of fishermen donated 1,200kg of fresh fish. This year they are donating 2,850kg, while a chicken company will give him 600kg of chicken for every 600kg he buys.