Having lived a hard life without much in the way of material comforts, an elderly couple in Chiayi City started in May to donate part of their seniors’ welfare subsidy to a child sponsorship program run by an international organization that sponsors children in poorer countries.
Before retiring, 74 year-old Lee Chieh-yuan (李价原) had many different jobs, ranging from carpentry and auto repairs, to buying and selling tires, raising his four children on a monthly income of NT$30,000 to NT$40,000.
“We had to make a living by manual labor. It was a hard life, so we promised ourselves that one day we would do what we could to help more children get into school,” Lee said on Friday.
Although Lee Chieh-yuan received only an elementary-school education, while his wife, 68-year-old Lee Tseng Kuei-lien (李曾桂蓮), did not learn to read and write, the couple took classes when they were 40 years old.
Going back to school not only enriched their lives, but also strengthened their belief that education is the road out of poverty, the couple said.
Now that their children are grown up and have decent jobs, and the couple’s thriftiness has allowed them to save enough money to buy a house, Lee said they felt it was time to make good on their promise and put into practice their I-Kuan Tao (一貫道) beliefs.
I-Kuan Tao is a religious movement that incorporates elements from Confucianism, Taoism and Chinese Buddhism, as well as recognizing non-Chinese religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam.
In May, the couple approached World Vision Taiwan and said they were interested in helping as many children as possible through the organization’s sponsorship program.
Lee Tseng receives a monthly seniors’ welfare subsidy of NT$3,500 and the couple use that and some of the money they get from renting out their apartment to donate NT$7,000 each month to support 10 children they have sponsored in Bolivia, Haiti, Chad, Niger, Indonesia, Nepal and other countries.
Looking at photographs of their “adopted” children the organization sent them, the couple said they worry the kids will not receive a proper education, adding that they also hope to visit them in the future.
“We hope to gradually increase the number of children we help,” Lee said, adding that their ultimate goal was to provide financial aid to about 100 children.
The couple plan to sell off some of the land they bought when they were younger and establish a foundation to better support children around the world and to help build ---I-Kuan -Tao facilities, Lee added.
“We are leaving some of land to our children, and we very much hope they and their children will continue to help children less fortunate than themselves” Lee Chien-yuan said.
Additional reporting by CNA