Sat, May 05, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Drunk driver finds new life after community service

By Liu Hsiao-hsin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Lee Wen-yuan tends to water spinach at a farm in Changhua County’s Homei Township on Thursday.

Photo: Liu Hsiao-hsin, Taipei Times

Having been sentenced to community service after being caught driving drunk in July last year, Lee Wen-yuan (李文元) has not only overcome his reluctance to help, but has also dedicated himself as a volunteer at Mianqian Community in Changhua County’s Homei Township (和美), where he helps grow vegetables for elderly people.

Lee, the 62-year-old owner of an audio system rental company, said that in July he had taken a pot of chicken stewed in rice wine to a local temple and joined volunteers in consuming it before heading home.

On his way home, Lee said he was stopped by police, who administered a Breathalyzer test that found he had a blood alcohol level of 0.36 milligrams per liter, exceeding the legal limit of 0.15 milligrams per liter.

As he has a history of vascular disease, Lee said the Changhua District Court concurred with his plea that a one-year prison sentence be commuted to 372 hours of community service.

Due to the nature of his work, Lee said that for nearly 30 years he has lived on a different schedule from most people.

“I rent out audio systems, which means I usually start work in the evening, wrap up at midnight and go to sleep at 3am,” he said.

However, he was forced to adopt a regular schedule, as he had to rise with the sun in order to make it to Homei on time from his residence in Fusing Township (福興), Lee said.

Volunteer group leader Hsieh Chung-yi (謝忠意) assigned Lee to the community farm plot, as his parents were farmers.

Lee said that while he initially treated community service like it was short-term compulsory military service, he eventually came to feel a sense of accomplishment from the work.

After learning that the plot grew food for the community’s elderly people, he began handpicking vegetables more suited for older people, such as green beans, bitter squash and sweet potato leaves.

The sense of accomplishment and a reluctance to leave the vegetables he planted motivated him to stay on as a volunteer, Lee said, adding that the experience has also improved his health and forced him to live a more typical schedule.

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