Outside of the youth volunteer initiative, the nation’s foremost foreign aid organization, Taipei-based International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), has enacted programs across the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean in areas spanning clean energy, education, food safety, health care and sustainable agriculture. In addition, at least 48 NGOs in Taiwan send youths abroad to do volunteer work on a regular basis, according to the YDA.
While members of The Big Change Band took their stories and music to inspire troubled youngsters in Malaysia, a group of students and graduates from Taipei Medical University (TMU) used their professional skills to help kids in diplomatic ally Kingdom of Eswatini. For the past two years, Feng Hsing Medical Service Team has been the recipient of a YOPC grant to conduct volunteer work in the southern African country.
In 2018, six TMU students and five practicing dentists spent 15 days treating more than 1,600 children from three orphanages and four elementary schools. They offered a range of services including tooth extractions and fluoride treatments, as well as holding tutorials on oral hygiene. Even so, David Fanjiang (范姜敦群), the leader of the medical team, wishes they could have done more. The fourth-year student said he is trying to encourage others to join similar projects. “I’m always sharing stories of my overseas volunteer work with others in Taiwan, hoping I can get them to break out of their comfort zone and do something for people in need overseas.”
Fanjiang credits his experience in Eswatini with giving him the inspiration to consider working in the nongovernmental sector after graduation. One organization he favors is international medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Equipping Taiwan youths with the know-how and confidence to pursue their chosen career is also something the program was designed to do. “Participating in the project is a learning experience that can help prepare young people for their future,” said Lo Ching-shui (羅清水), director general of the YDA. “When they plan their volunteer work, they need to overcome hurdles and learn to cooperate with others and these are good abilities for them to develop.”