Conscripts excited about overseas aid work projects

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Oct 17, 2013 - Page 3

Servicemen set to spend their alternative military service terms abroad expressed excitement yesterday over their future roles in supporting assistance programs and cooperative projects.

The 85 conscripts, who have just finished a six-week training program, will be sent to 22 countries — mostly the nation’s diplomatic allies — for 10 months later this month, according to the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), which trained the recruits.

“We are very excited,” said a 25-year-old surnamed Ni (倪), who has a master’s degree in information engineering and who is heading to Tuvalu to help set up an electronic system for medical records. “It is a good opportunity to put what I have learned in school into practice.”

The conscripts will join Taiwanese technical support groups and medical missions to help carry out projects in fields such as agriculture, public health and information technologies, TaiwanICDF said.

Their six weeks of training included language classes and sessions on international etiquette and the local culture of their destinations, the organization said.

A 25-year-old surnamed Peng (彭) said he is looking forward to making a contribution to his host country, Nicaragua, and hopes that he will be able to adapt easily to the local culture.

He said he will be working to help improve rice farming there.

“I have been interested in international aid programs for a long time,” said Peng, who holds a master’s degree in agronomy.

At a ceremony held to mark the completion of their training program yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary-General Gary Lin (林松煥) encouraged the conscripts to engage with local people and learn to appreciate different cultures.

In the past 12 years the government has sent 920 conscripts to work on its assistance programs and cooperative projects around the world as part of the military alternative service, TaiwanICDF said.