Taitung vegetable vendor Chen Shu-chu (陳樹菊), who has received several awards in recent years for her philanthropy, was granted this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award.
The Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation announced on Wednesday that Chen and five individuals from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines would receive Asia’s premier prize.
“[Chen] is being recognized for the pure altruism of her personal giving, which reflects a deep, consistent, quiet compassion, and has transformed the lives of the numerous Taiwanese she has helped,” the foundation said in a press release.
The 61-year-old was busy arranging vegetables when reporters approached her at Taitung Central Market. Chen did not give an unequivocal answer as to whether she would go to receive the award herself, but said that Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) had encouraged her to go.
The presentation ceremony will be held on Aug. 31 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said yesterday that the ministry had contacted Chen to tell her it would provide assistance so she could receive the award in person.
Chen was selected by Forbes Asia as one of its 48 Heroes of Philanthropy in 2010. Also that year, she was chosen by Time magazine as one of its top 100 influential individuals, ranking eighth in the “heroes” category. Reader’s Digest also bestowed upon her the fourth annual Reader’s Digest Asian of the Year award for 2010.
When she was 13 years old, Chen began helping her father sell vegetables to support a family of eight after her mother died giving birth because her family did not have enough money for a deposit to get her mother to a hospital. After she graduated from elementary school, Chen missed out on further education.
Chen has since donated NT$10 million (US$331,000) to set up scholarships to help children in need of emergency funds and to help an elementary school build a library. She also donates NT$36,000 per month to three children in an orphanage. Chen plans to save NT$10 million to set up a foundation to pool resources to help the poor.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in April 1957 by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York City.
With the concurrence of the Philippine government, the prize was created to commemorate Ramon Magsaysay, a former Philippine president.