Philanthropist vegetable vendor Chen Shu-chu (陳樹菊) departed for Manila on Sunday to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award, known as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Chen, one of the six winners of this year’s Magsaysay Award, told reporters prior to her departure that she felt honored and gratified to win the award, given to individuals in Asia in recognition of their work and contributions to society.
“This is my first trip to the Philippines and I’m very happy to travel to Manila for the nation’s honor,” Chen said, adding that she did not feel anxious about the trip.
The modest Chen initially did not want to attend Friday’s award ceremony after hearing late last month that she had won the award.
She changed her mind after Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) and Taitung County Commissioner Justin Huang (黃健庭) convinced her to accept the award in person to help enhance Taiwan’s international profile.
The 62-year-old vegetable vendor from Taitung County was cited for “transforming young lives through a life of giving,” according to the Magsaysay Award committee.
Earning a modest living selling vegetables, Chen has managed to donate more than NT$10 million (US$332,000) over the years to help launch a children’s fund, build a school library and an orphanage, and give regular financial support to three children and other charities.
She has announced that she will donate the Magsaysay Award prize of US$50,000 to Mackay Hospital’s Taitung Branch to help the hospital build an intensive care unit.
Chen arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport accompanied by officials from the Taitung County Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many passengers cheered her and asked her to take photographs with them before her departure.
Chen was named in 2010 one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential individuals in the world and one of the 48 Heroes of Philanthropy by Forbes Asia.
Ten Taiwanese have won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, most recently Cloud Gate Dance Theatre founder and artistic director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), in 1999.