Within the Happy Mount Facility, decorations are ubiquitous, bringing color into the otherwise dull facility.
Happy Mount — like the Lo-sheng (Happy Life) Sanatorium — was established as a facility for Hansen’s disease patients, but is currently a home for the mentally challenged.
It was founded in 1934 by George Gushue-Taylor, the founder of Losheng.
All decorations were made by the facility’s residents under the guidance of members of the Sandwishes Studio, a team of artists from the Taipei National University of the Arts who make creative products, as well as run design courses.
The workshop was founded last year after three graduate students, Lee Wan-keng (李萬鏗), Tseng Yun-chieh (曾韻婕) and Hsieh Ruo-lin (謝若琳) visited Losheng as part of a course on the arts and social participation.
After finishing the course, the students said they returned to the sanatorium not only because of the good memories, but also because they were moved by the children living there.
The workshop has met with enthusiastic support from students from the university’s different departments.
Utilizing their specialities, the students sought to design and create a brand that would not only help promote the workshop’s image as a social welfare organization, but also promote the visibility of disadvantaged groups.
Hsieh said the first thing the workshop did was enlarge the drawings of the facility’s residents and use them as billboards and direction signs for visitors.
Hsieh said the workshop had produced postcards, one of which had been chosen by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation as its card to thank donors or to wish them a happy Lunar New Year.
The facility has received calls from people who had received the postcards asking how they could make a donation, Hsieh said, adding that the cards helped spread the name of Happy Mount and aided its fundraising.
Hsieh said that after she visited the facility and took courses on how to care for disabled patients she saw some works made by children with special needs and saw the potential of starting a business for creative and cultural products.
Hsieh said the visit prompted her, Lee and Tseng to found the workshop last year.
The three students were further encouraged when they received an award of excellence from the Ministry of Education after they submitted their project ideas on the workshop’s establishment to the ministry’s Junior College Entrepreneurial Service contest.
Hsieh said that after founding the workshop, she understood how the majority of social welfare facilities struggled to adequately manage their financial affairs.
Taiwanese companies have raised about NT$40.9 billion (US$1.3 billion) in funds for social welfare facilities, but the money did not seem to be evenly distributed, Hsieh said, adding that the more renowned facilities seemed to get more, while the less known or more rural ones received less.
“I hope the Sandwishes Studio can use the art and design skills of its members to help make resource distribution fairer,” she said.
Although the students started the workshop as a non-profit organization, Happy Mount director Yao Yu-ching (姚雨靜) said she felt that something should be offered as a reward for the people who helped the facility so much, so she gave the students paychecks for their first designs.
The students helped Happy Mount’s younger patients cultivate their artistic talents, she said.
The enlarged drawings on billboards not only surprised residents living near the facility, but also made the patients happy and proud to see their creations displayed to promote the facility, she said.
Yao said that she wanted to thank Sandwishes Studio for not taking a short-sighted approach when handling their projects, but stationing many members at the facility to spend time with the children, asking about the patients’ feelings and what they thought of their own works.
“Art shouldn’t be just about aesthetics. It should have soul, and it is they, the students and the workshop, who have accurately portrayed the souls of the patients who had drawn the pictures,” Yao said, adding that it was through the workshop’s efforts that the patients at the facility were able to show society what they were capable of.