Chang Hung-chi (張鴻祺) and his wife, Kuo Chin-chin (郭巾錦), are ordinary farmers in Pingtung County who have been doing something extraordinary over the past two decades.
Since 1997, the couple has provided a home for foster children on their fruit and vegetable farm in Jiuru Township (九如).
Over the years, they have taken in 32 children, with the hope of providing a safe and warm home and creating a chance for a bright future, 56-year-old Kuo said.
“We have scattered many seeds over the land,” she said. “There must be at least one that has grown into a tree.”
One of those seeds has indeed flourished and has not forgotten her roots.
Lin Ching-mei (林靜玫) was nine years old when the nonprofit Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF) arranged for her to live with the couple.
Lin was from a single-parent family that was unable to cope financially, so she and her two siblings were put into foster care, TFCF volunteer Huang Shu-ling (黃淑玲) said, adding that Lin was sent to the couple’s home, where she stayed for six months until her mother was able to regain custody.
After Lin was reunited with her mother, she again went through a period of difficulty, as she had no proper care, Huang said, citing Lin’s account of her early life.
Lin’s life after she left the Chang family was filled with challenges and frustration, but she found the strength to keep trying and eventually began working as a store clerk in Taichung, Huang said, adding that what kept her going was the memory of her foster parents, the warmth of their home and the love they showed her.
Spurred by those memories, Lin, now 29, set off three times over the past year in search of the Changs.
“But I couldn’t find their home, no matter how hard I tried,” Lin said. “Every time, I’d return to Taichung in tears.”
Eventually, she visited the TFCF’s Pingtung center, after recalling that the organization had arranged her foster care. With its help, she reconnected with her foster parents on Thursday last week.
“Thank you for taking care of me,” Lin said, kneeling in front of the couple. “Without you, I might not have survived.”
She tearfully wandered through the farmhouse where she once lived.
Lin recalled how good Chang was at making pastry and how Kuo always had a bowl of lemon-flavored iced aiyu jelly (愛玉) waiting when she returned from school.
Pointing at a window on the second floor, Chang reminded Lin that she used to sit there every day, playing the flute.
This year marked 20 years since Chang, 60, and Kuo began providing foster care services under the TFCF program in Pingtung.
Lin’s visit was a special event that made the milestone even more meaningful, Huang said.
Lin also attended a public event held by the local government on Saturday last week to honor foster parents.
“For years, you were on my mind and I often dreamed of returning to your home,” Lin said at that event, tears running down her cheeks.
“Now I have finally found you. Life did not treat me kindly when I was growing up, but the love that you gave me has remained my most beautiful and cherished memory,” she added.
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