Civic groups hosted an outdoor bazaar in Greater Taichung at the weekend to help ex-convicts pursue their post-prison lives while also helping them to reintegrate into society.
Items such as stinky tofu, customized soaps, home-made biscuits as well as other foods and handicrafts produced by ex-offenders were sold at the event, which was organized by the Taichung Chapter of the Taiwan After-Care Association.
The association was set up to help former inmates who have served their sentences and are now seeking to reintegrate into society. In Taiwan, these people are termed geng sheng ren (更生人), a term referring to people seeking to get on with their new lives.
“When entering into business, ex-offenders face difficulties and so society needs to lend them support, so they can stay on the right track,” said Wang Chin-chih (王錦賜), head of the Taichung Chapter.
He said that more than 60 geng sheng ren who applied for interest-free loans are now running their own businesses and are working hard to make an honest living while seeking to find their own way. However, Wang added that they have difficulty selling their goods, so his group organized the bazaar to assist in their efforts.
One of the vendors at the event, who was selling stinky tofu, is known as A-tsan (阿燦). He was imprisoned for violating copyright laws while also racking up debts of more than NT$10 million (US$340,000). After he was released from jail, A-tsan said he started to sell stinky tofu with his wife. They experimented and came up with their own unique flavorings and their company has been attracting a good following which allowed him to clear his debts.
“When I started to run my own business, I did not have much confidence. Fortunately, I was encouraged and supported by my family and the Taiwan After-Care Association, which helped me to gain more confidence. Now I work more than 12 hours a day and it’s all worth it when I see my family are safe and being looked after. My experience shows that one can be successful, when one puts one’s heart into it,” he said.
Wang said that geng sheng ren face a tough climb in society and need the help of others, so he hoped the public could learn to open their hearts and accept them.