Coming home with more than NT$160,000 (US$5,500) in donations and a sense of spiritual fulfillment, a 26-year-old man from Pingtung County recently concluded his round-the-island walk aimed at raising money for the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families.
Following his discharge from the military in August last year, Chang Chih-min (張智閔) embarked on a round-the-island journey on Sept. 23, in an effort to raise funds for impoverished children across the country.
“My mother is a volunteer at the Pingtung branch of the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. It was her selflessness and dedication to the organization that spurred me on to make this trip and contribute to children from disadvantaged households,” Chang said at a gathering at the Pingtung branch on Tuesday.
With a collection box hung in front of his chest with a sign that read: “Love Taiwan with steps and donations, travel around the nation to raise money,” Chang began his trip from Oluanpi (鵝鑾鼻), Taiwan’s southernmost tip, and traveled counterclockwise around the island.
Chang originally planned to complete the journey within three months, but he had to suspend his trip for two weeks to recuperate at his home in Jhutian Township (竹田) after suffering serious muscle aches in his legs caused by walking long distances.
Despite the physical ordeal, Chang said a number of amiable people he met during the trip made his island-wide journey particularly memorable and worthwhile.
“The most impressive part of the trip was my encounter with a middle-aged vendor in Hsinchu, who not only generously donated her revenue for the day of about NT$20,000, but also walked with me for about 6km,” Chang said.
He added that the woman, who contributed the highest amount of money and traveled the longest distance with him during his entire trip, declined to be photographed.
However, the indifference and apathy shown by people from relatively wealthier areas in the country made a negative impression on Chang.
“While I did not actively ask passers-by for donations during most of my trip, most people just went ahead and chipped in some money. Yet in Taipei, where I raised less than NT$2,000, most people just walked right past me with a distant look in their eyes,” Chang said.
In contrast to the cold treatment he received in Taipei, Chang said he was able to raise NT$7,000 and collect more than 500 uniform invoices in Yunlin County, and raised NT$20,000 in Hualien County.
When asked about his future goals, Chang said he planned to embark on a similar journey on Kinmen and Penghu, where the foundation has also set up branches.
“Although my abilities are limited, I hope the trip will motivate more like-minded young people to follow suit. Even the smallest contribution you make today can gradually become an undeniable force in the future,” Chang said.