Reports of an impoverished family in Pingtung County have resulted in an outpouring of charity as the nation’s netizens donated goods and money.
The family of three lives in Siangtan Village (餉潭) in Pingtung’s Sinpi Township (新埤). The mother, Fang Mei-ling (方美玲), is unable to work due to elephantiasis — a condition which causes severe disfigurement due to abnormal swelling — that affects her legs.
Her daughter is mentally and physically disabled, with partial paralysis arising from the after-effects of a fever when she was four years old.
The responsibility for earning money for the household rests with 60-year-old father Pan Ching-piao (潘清標). He has only been able to work intermittently as a laborer, which has left the family with a meager income. For many years, he has had to pay all the family’s expenses, including the medical bills for his wife and daughter’s treatments.
Fang said her condition arose about 10 years ago.
At first, she was still able to walk, but the swelling continued. Later, she could not turn her body and had to wash with a wet towel.
Fang is receiving medical treatment sporadically and she can no longer walk. She spends most of the day on the sofa, at times sewing clothes, but unable to do housework.
In recent years, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation and the county government’s Social Affairs Department have provided assistance, enabling the daughter to attend Pingtung Special Education School, located in nearby Chaojhou Township (潮州).
Netizens recently posted news messages about the family’s situation, and wrote about the mother’s “elephant leg disease.”
A number of people responded to the stories by sending donations.
“Several people came to our village this month asking to visit the family,” Siangtan Village Warden Pan Jih-hu (潘日護) said on Thursday.
“They read the online messages and wanted to help out,” he added.
“A number of them came with donations of household goods. Also three young men visited the family and they gave a red envelope containing some money for the mother,” Pan said, adding that Fang said she has felt the warmth and kindness of these caring people.