A car dealer from Pingtung County’s Changjhih Township (長治) fulfilled his commitment to help Typhoon Morakot victims recover from one of the worst disasters ever to strike the nation, after having traveled back and forth between his home and affected areas, covering a total distance of 6,000km, to deliver much-needed relief supplies over the past three years.
For many people, memories of the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot — which led to Taiwan’s worst flooding in 50 years and claimed the lives of nearly 700 people — and the pain it had caused on Aug. 8, 2009, may have faded into oblivion, but this was not the case for Wu Ching-ho (吳清和).
Born into a humble family, Wu worked himself up from a low-level mechanic in Greater Tainan to becoming the owner of an automobile dealership.
A man concerned about the disadvantaged, Wu has been donating a third of his monthly income to charity for the past decade and often extends financial assistance to families in distress whose plight is reported in the media.
After Typhoon Morakot, relief resources were pouring into affected areas from all sectors of society, but only a few people kept up their assistance after the spotlight on typhoon victims and their wrecked homes faded with time.
Saddened by how victims were forgotten by the public and left stranded, Wu made a promise to himself and to the many affected people in Pingtung County that he would send them supplies and daily necessities each month for as long as three consecutive years.
Prior to making his monthly deliveries, Wu would contact Sandi Elementary School principal Chen Tsai-hsing (陳再興), who doubles as one of the district commanders in the disaster area, to compile a list of the supplies residents needed.
He then single-handedly took the supplies to the homes of affected residents in several remote villages, including Haocha (好茶), Dashe (大社) and Dewun (德文) — all of which were severely battered by the typhoon.
“What the disaster victims are lacking is not money, but rather continued care, such as a supply of daily requisites that are difficult to come by in the mountainous areas,” Wu said.
He added that the most frequently delivered items include toothpaste, toothbrushes, disinfectants, tissues, adult diapers, milk powder, candles and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
In Morakot’s wake, those villagers started to appreciate their lives and all the resources available to them, Wu said, which was why they substituted reusable thick towels for diapers to reduce wasting of resources.
Praising Wu’s long-time dedication to the victims in remote villages, Chen said that Wu had been expressing concerns about and supporting education in the area long before the arrival of Typhoon Morakot, such as by helping facilitate the reconstruction of a library for the elementary school in Dashe.
Chen said that even after large parts of Dashe Village, along with the library, were buried by a massive landslide caused by Morakot, forcing villagers to relocate and students to transfer to a different school, Wu still “continued to make all-out efforts to help address whatever difficulties the villagers were facing.”
“As for me, Wu is a brotherly figure with whom I have built mutual trust and cooperation. To the villagers, he is more of a guardian angel that has been watching over them,” Chen said.
An accident two years ago proved that Wu’s determination to fulfill his promises is too strong to be destroyed.
At that time, Wu was trying to fix a water leak in an automobile repair shop when he accidentally fell from the second floor and sustained severe leg injuries.
Despite the severity of his injuries, Wu, accompanied by acquaintances, insisted on delivering supplies to the stricken villagers after only one month of recuperation and before he had fully recovered from the fall.
Following serious flooding triggered by torrential rains that pummeled wide swaths of the country on June 12 this year — including Deyuan Village (德元) and Penglai Village (蓬萊) in Pingtung’s Sandimen Township (三地門) — Wu increased the frequency of deliveries of relief supplies from once a month to twice a month.
In an effort to express their sincere gratitude to Wu, the villagers originally planned to invite him to attend their harvest festival and receive public recognition for his benevolence on the third anniversary of Typhoon Morakot on Aug. 8, when Wu made his last delivery to the regions.
However, Wu declined, saying the occasion would be better celebrated with endless refills of home-brewed millet wine.
“Seeing all the villagers safe and happy is satisfying enough for me,” Wu said, expressing the hope that his benevolent deeds would encourage more people to do as he had done.