Hualien County officials on Thursday presented Father Jean-Claude Fournier, of Sincheng Township’s (新城) Peide Kindergarten, with a national identification card after his naturalization.
The 81-year-old priest arrived in Taiwan in 1965 from his home in Switzerland.
He campaigned for the building of Jiali Township’s (嘉里) church and promoted the concept of establishing savings.
The Mutual-aid Savings Society he helped establish not only helped township residents manage their finances, but was also a source of funding for disadvantaged people.
Fournier said he took over the kindergarten so that even disadvantaged children could get an education.
In its heyday, 200 children attended the kindergarten, and over the past five decades, Fournier made frequent trips to Switzerland to raise funds for it, he said.
The teachers at the kindergarten were either nuns or were hired, Fournier said, adding that he also elicited help from professors who specialized in children’s education.
Many of his former students — including a number of township mayors, county councilors and teachers at other establishments — have visited the kindergarten and given donations to keep it running, Fournier said.
“An educator should help deliver others from poverty, and it is a vocation that cleanses the souls of others,” Fournier said.
He has not included overtly religious material at the kindergarten, hoping that through his actions the children would learn how to love others, to honor the Lord and revere their parents, Fournier said.
The kindergarten’s principal, Pan Yu-hui (潘玉惠), said that Fournier’s selfless devotion to the kindergarten was the main reason staff members kept working there.
Sincheng Mayor Ho Li-tai (何禮臺), former county commissioner Fu Kun-chi and the county’s Civil Affairs Office presented Fournier with the identification card, as well as gifts — an Aboriginal-style vest and an “exceptional townsman” ribbon — for his services.
Ho congratulated Fournier, saying that he attended Peide Kindergarten and had fond memories of Fournier when he was still young.
Fournier is the fourth foreigner to be naturalized in Hualien County: Father Charles Reichenbach is also from Switzerland, while Father Yves Moal is a Frenchman. The late Father Maurice Poinsot was French, too.
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