Thirty Taiwanese teenagers were honored on Sunday for outstanding volunteer services to their communities at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony in Taipei.
Chen Hui-chieh (陳慧潔), 15, who raised money for disadvantaged children in Taiwan and starving children in East Africa, and Wang Pu-lin (王溥琳), 16, who designed a “guppy fish project” to enliven the lives of elderly people in a senior citizens’ home, received the main awards.
They were each presented with NT$20,000 (US$673) to donate to a social group of their choice, along with an opportunity to attend an awards ceremony in the US in May and interact with teenage volunteers from other countries.
The ceremony, now in its 13th year in Taiwan, recognizes students from junior high school to college for their devotion and outstanding achievements in volunteer projects. The 30 honorees were selected from more than 6,500 competitors, organizers said.
The awards program was established in the US in 1995 by Prudential Financial Inc and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. It was introduced to Taiwan in 2000.
Wang, a student from National Hualien Girls’ Senior High School, said she introduced the guppy fish to a senior citizens’ home in Hualien after she “heard the sighs of elderly people.”
“I hope elderly people can live happily. I hope they can change from being cared for to caring for themselves,” said Wang, who works as a volunteer at the senior citizens’ home, where her father also once worked.
Wang began the “guppy fish project” over a year ago.
She collects discarded bottles and cans, decorates them with waterweeds and color stones, fills them with water and adds the guppy fish. She then brings the them to the seniors’ home to teach residents how to care for the fish.
So far, six residents have enrolled in the program.
“Elders love pets and children. If their children are not able to be with them, pets can be good company,” said Wang, who is close to her sick grandfather.
Chen, who is home-schooled, has been delivering meals since the age of eight to senior citizens living alone.
At the age of nine, she helped to organize concerts and took to the streets each summer to raise funds for children from disadvantaged families, so far raising NT$300,000, organizers said.
At the age of 14, Chen, learned about the famines in East Africa and was motivated to organize a fundraising concert for the children of the region.
She raised NT$57,000 in two hours and was able to send 2,250kg of white rice to East Africa.
“One child dies of hunger every six seconds [in Africa]. We are really lucky to be born in Taiwan,” said Chen, urging the public to join volunteer activities and help more people.
In addition to Wang and Chen, eight other awardees also received NT$20,000 to donate to the social organization of their choice.
Among them was Chen Yu-an, a second-year junior-high school student who has suffered from leukemia since age four.
Chen and his brother formed a talent show group, which has performed for patients in hospitals for the past seven years.
Chen has also raised funds for children with cancer and has donated NT$170,000 of his savings and prize money to patients suffering from eye cancer.