As the pandemic comes under control, the international volunteer teams from National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan are gearing up to kick off their service this coming summer in Kenya and Malaysia. Before their departure, the NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team has collected and refurbished 220 used computers and sent them to East Africa. Upon arrival in Kenya, the Team will provide classes on information technology to empower local students. The Malaysia International Volunteer Team will set off for Pekan Nanas, a town in the Johor region of Malaysia, to help preserve the culture and history of the local community.
The NTHU International Volunteering Project was established in 2007. With 675 NTHU students having already participated in the program, the volunteering service has expanded across 8 countries (Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ghana, Belize, Malaysia, Nepal, and Indonesia) and 3 continents (Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia).
Over the past three years, the volunteering program has been put on hold due to the pandemic. However, this didn't stop the students from making other people's lives better—they kept refurbishing used computers and donating them to foreign countries. Apart from that, they have also offered e-tutoring courses and online classes to support remote learning.
Now that the pandemic is finally becoming a memory, the volunteer teams are ready to make their 14th trip abroad. NTHU Senior Vice President Ping-chiang Lyu (呂平江) and Dean of Student Affairs Hong-lin Chan (詹鴻霖) presided over a flag conferring ceremony today to wish the 24 students who are about to depart for their destinations every success in their endeavors.
Quoting the saying “Reading ten thousand scrolls does not measure up to traveling ten thousand miles,” Senior Vice President Lyu encouraged the students of both teams to serve humanity wherever and whenever the need arises regardless of their backgrounds. Lyu noted that over the past year prior to the trip, the teams have been busy learning local culture, refurbishing computers, and raising funds. He expressed hope that the students will learn to be humble and grow with each other while they are working in Kenya and Malaysia.
Lyu also reminded the students to pass down their experiences to other members who will continue the service next year. “Like a relay race, the international volunteer teams will continue dedicating themselves to serving those who are in need. It is precisely the manifestation of the NTHU's motto—self-discipline and social commitment,” he emphasized.
Dean of Student Affairs Chan stated that the students participating in the volunteer program will stay in the place they are going to serve for at least one month. Unlike short-term volunteer programs or brief visits, students will be able to broaden their global perspective and develop the abilities required to tackle crises. The experience will be a good training process for the students before they enter the workforce.
Tanzanian Fr. Raymond Joel Riziki (岳良實), a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit of the Catholic Church, remarked that while he was a computer science teacher in Tanzania, he noticed that NTHU students would travel to Tanzania every year and bring computers to teach IT while promoting Taiwanese culture. “We learned a lot about Taiwan. Taiwanese people are very kind and friendly. On behalf of the schools that are beneficiaries of the NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team's efforts, I'd like to say thank you very much.”
Zhi-da Song (宋智達), general manager of the Taiwan Imaging-Tek Corporation, has long been a sponsor of the NTHU international volunteer teams. He noted that the students could have chosen to spend their summer vacation in other countries that most people would prefer to go to. However, they decided to fly to Kenya to serve. “On behalf of my generation, I'd like to extend my sincere appreciation to these students. Thank you for bringing the love of Taiwan to the world,” he said.
Song also emphasized that businesses prefer to hire people who have the capabilities to resolve problems and the moral compass to overcome ethical dilemmas. The NTHU volunteers are exactly the type of people businesses are looking for.
East Africa International Volunteer Team to provide courses in coding
This year, the East Africa International Volunteer Team will bring 120 used computers to Nyeri, a town located in the Central Highlands of Kenya, and stay there for a month and a half to set up computer classrooms in seven elementary and middle schools. Meanwhile, they will also provide coding courses and teacher training programs.
Tai-chih Yuan (袁泰智), student coordinator for the East Africa team, stated that previously, the IT courses designed by the team were mainly about word processing and how to use search engines. This year, they will introduce a “coding project,” teaching young learners how to get started with coding.
To begin with, they will train local college students who volunteer to be seed teachers on Scratch, which is an application platform open to all to learn coding. The seed teachers will then help the local elementary and high school students figure out what Scratch has to offer and learn coding skills.
Yuan, a volunteer in Tanzania three years ago when he was a freshman, described the journey as “a month and a half life-changing experience.” He vividly recalled traveling more than 10,000 kilometers to Africa, a continent which he barely knew. He pointed out that while working as a volunteer there, he matured quickly and learned to be a good teammate.
To get his message across, Yuan said he also learned to convey instructions with clarity and conviction. This summer he will return to Africa as the coordinator of the East Africa team. He said he is really looking forward to the trip.
Kai-xiu Huang (黃楷修), a junior in the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering, participated in the volunteer program when he was a freshman. During the past two years of the pandemic, he has been repairing hardware and designing online courses to support remote learning in African communities. He said he is very glad that he will finally be able to visit the local community this year and utilize what he has learned to assist people in Africa.
In addition to Kenya, the volunteer team had also served in Tanzania during previous trips. This summer, however, the team will only travel to Kenya since the post-pandemic situation in other East African countries still remains precarious.
In spite of that, the team has collected another 100 computers from the public, which will be sent to Tanzania during the second half of this year. The team expressed hope to return to Tanzania next year to support IT education in local communities.
Malaysia International Volunteer Team to film documentaries in Pekan Nanas
Founded in 2012, the Malaysia International Volunteer Team is the only volunteer group in Taiwan whose initiative aims at the preservation of culture and history in overseas communities. A total of 13 students from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Department of Chinese Literature, and the College of Technology Management will head to Pekan Nanas to assist in the preservation of local culture and history, community empowerment, and after-school Chinese language programs.
Jui-chen Hong (洪睿辰), a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that Pekan Nanas, located in southern Malaysia, is adjacent to the Chinese community in Singapore. The town used to be famous for its pineapple production. However, serious population outflow in recent years has had a huge impact on local industries.
What's worse, the town has been confronted with issues such as a widening gap between rural and urban areas as well as a growing digital divide. Consequently, the town is in dire need of help to preserve its culture and history as well as to empower its community.
Lee-lan Wong (王麗蘭), an NTHU alumnus and coordinator for the Malaysia team, has been working hard to promote the languages and culture of Southeast Asia. She indicated that the team plans to preserve local culture and history by doing in-depth reports, filming documentaries, and creating web maps.
They will also work with local Chinese elementary schools to organize summer camps aimed at promoting reading and creating picture books about the local culture. Born and raised in Malaysia, Wong went to college in Taiwan. She therefore has a deep understanding about what local communities need in Malaysia.
“It's quite common for students majoring in science and technology to do internships at hi-tech companies. As students who study humanities and social sciences, we consider an overseas field trip as being equivalent to an internship, one in which we can gain a lot of valuable experience,” said Ai-ling Hsu (許璦翎), a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
To prepare for the trip to Malaysia, Liang-yu Lin (林亮語) and An-shih Chou (周安時), who are currently sophomores in the Department of Chinese Literature, arranged a field trip to Mazu last year to gain experience in doing interviews and writing biographies. They hope that what they learned will better prepare them for documentary filming and in-depth reporting in Malaysia.
Expressing gratitude to those who sponsor the NTHU international volunteer teams
The Malaysia International Volunteer Team revealed that the biggest challenge for them this year has been fundraising. Due to the impact of the pandemic, they have only collected half of the money needed for the trip so far, and the team hopes that they will be able to garner sufficient financial support before their departure. To chip in for their trip, the members of the team have worked as private tutors or even as farmers after school.
To express gratitude, NTHU today arranged a ceremony to present certificates of appreciation to businesses and individuals who helped sponsor the two teams. They include Fubon Financial Holdings, ASUSTeK Computer Inc., Cathay Charity Foundation, Imaging-Tek Corporation, Otsuka Information Technology Corp., NTHU alumnus S. C. Hsin (辛水泉), the Youth Development Administration of the Ministry of Education, Xi Zhi Fude Temple, the NTHU Live Your Dreams Scholarship, Portal International IRP Group, and Mr. Wen-te Chen (陳文德).
NTHU international volunteer teams will fly to Kenya and Malaysia this summer to provide help.
NTHU international volunteer teams will fly to Kenya and Malaysia this summer to provide help.
The NTHU Malaysia International Volunteer Team will fly to Malaysia this summer to provide help.
The NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team will fly to Kenya this summer to provide help.
NTHU Senior Vice President Ping-chiang Lyu (呂平江) encourages the international volunteer teams to serve humanity wherever and whenever the need arises regardless of their backgrounds.
Tanzanian Fr. Raymond Joel Riziki (岳良實), a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit of the Catholic Church, expresses gratitude on behalf of the beneficiaries of the NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team.
Zhi-da Song (宋智達), general manager of the Taiwan Imaging-Tek Corporation, extends his sincere appreciation to the NTHU international volunteer teams for bringing the love of Taiwan to the world.
Ai-ling Hsu (許璦翎), a junior in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, explains what the Malaysia International Volunteer Team will do to preserve local culture and history in Malaysia.
The NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team packaging the refurbished computers, which will be sent to Kenya.
Children in Kenya writing spring couplets in an activity held by the NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team.
The NTHU East Africa International Volunteer Team interacting with school children in Tanzania.
The NTHU Malaysia International Volunteer Team conducting a field trip in Malaysia.
The NTHU Malaysia International Volunteer Team promoting cultural diversity and co-prosperity while celebrating Eid al-Fitr.