A coalition of social welfare groups yesterday held 16 banquets for more than 40,000 homeless or disadvantaged people nationwide ahead of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 5.
The annual event, which is organized by the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation, the Huashan Social Welfare Foundation and the Zenan Social Welfare Foundation, offered free food and NT$500 in red envelopes for attendees, who included single mothers and elderly people living alone.
The Taipei banquet on Ketagalan Boulevard had 2,200 tables and was attended by 20,000 guests.
Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times
Among the attendees were five centenarians, including one aged 108.
Lin Neng-huo (林能火), 100, said it was his second such banquet.
“Having so many friends here makes me very happy,” Lin said.
Despite using a wheelchair, Lin said he has worked as a barber for more than 70 years.
“Working keeps me healthy,” he said.
Another guest, 102-year-old Yu Yuan-shih (俞元師), described himself as a mahjong enthusiast.
Yu said he spends most of his time playing with staff at social welfare groups or watching television at home.
Also in attendance was former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who said that the banquet evolved from a community program launched in 1987 by the mother of Genesis Social Welfare Foundation founder Tsao Ching (曹慶).
Tsao’s mother used to make boxed meals with other volunteers to give away to homeless people in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) each Lunar New Year’s Eve, Ma said.
In the same spirit, the foundation in 1991 organized its first year-end banquet for homeless people in the district, he said, adding that it only had 10 tables.
Today, the event has grown significantly thanks to the kindness of many people, Ma said.
The organizers prepared more than 4,000 tables of food for needy people across the nation, supported by nearly 3,000 volunteers and 50,000 donors, he said.
Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) thanked event organizers for their kindness.
“It warms my heart to see people enjoying warm food at this annual get-together,” Chen said.
It is the government’s responsibility to take care of disadvantaged people and with that purpose in mind, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in June last year launched a subsidy program for children from low-income or medium-income families, Chen said.
The program allows families to apply for a special savings account, which is credited with government subsidies, he said, adding that so far 7,300 people have applied and saved a combined NT$180 million (US$5.8 million), NT$65 million of which came from their own pockets, with the rest from interests and government subsidies, he said.
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