I had the fortune to meet Dr. Joseph Deyama at an Amnesty International meeting in December who strongly suggested I look into the Harmony Home Association in Taiwan that provides safe shelter and assistance for victims of sex trafficking and children or adults afflicted with HIV or AIDS. He directed me to contact Nicole Yang, elating her as the Mother Theresa of Taiwan.
In both calling and emailing, I had immediate response and a warm welcome to help. Actually in following up on Ms. Snow (an adorable Taiwanese friend)’s interest to volunteer at Lantern Lighting Festival on the 28th of January, I called into the office and after speaking with Nicole Yang herself for a minute and asking if I could stop in the office, was invited to join their 尾牙 (Year End Party) and help look over the kids. The timing was perfect and I immediately agreed. This is last minute but if anyone wants to come, PLEASE let me know.
Date & Time:
January 18th, 2012 meet up at 16:00
Email me for the location.
Look over the kids! This is my first time there so I would recommend language proficiency 4 or 5 but after I get a hand at this and understand more about their volunteer needs I’ll post and you can see how you can help. I know they will definitely need people to help over the Lunar Year so keep posted!
A short snipped of Dr. Deyama’s article on this urgent situation on ground. Their website has such a wealth of info I recommend you to visit it.
Current situation in Taiwan (sorry I can’t get the formatting to work properly!)
According to the Taiwan Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number of new cases of HIV/ AIDS is increasing at an alarming rate. As mentioned earlier, new cases have been doubling or getting worse every year in the past few years, with no end in sight. Intravenous drug abusers (IVDA) are becoming much more common in Taiwan with Heroin more readily and inexpensively available mainly from Afghanistan. Since IVDA in Taiwan are criminalized, users tend to stay underground and share needles even though the government is making an effort to give free needles, care and risk reduction schemes such as with Methadone treatment. IV drug users in Taiwan are not only criminalized but subject to intense discrimination and stigmatization. Many have been fired from work or kicked out of their families when discovered. What people don’t realize is that many IVDA were or still are normal working citizens. Many are single mothers, whose husbands have died or run away. They need help in rehabilitation, not be put in jail, where they cannot contribute to society and forcing many to abandon their babies. Several countries have de-criminalized IVDA with great success, making IVDA a medical condition, not a crime; because of this, the spread of HIV/AIDS have lessened considerably.More and more new cases continue to come to Harmony Home. For example, children of HIV positive, IVDA mothers who have been imprisoned. Luckily for the babies and children, many tested HIV negative. The existing major challenge for Harmony Home is to find a larger facility to house all these new children and patients and of course this means that more staff, food, clothing, medications and shelter are needed urgently. Currently the 120 adults and children sheltered in Harmony Home are spread out in 4 facilities in Taipei (North of Taiwan) and Kaohsiung and Pingtung (South of Taiwan).IVDA may be the most dangerous and most common cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS in Taiwan at the moment but this is further compounded by the severe stigmatization and discrimination against the MSM (men having sex with men) population, causing many gay men not to seek diagnosis or help even if given for free. This only leads to an increasing number of gay men at risk of being infected with HIV.Another compounding factor in Taiwan is the increasing number of teenagers and those under 25 who become sexually active. Like their Japanese counterparts, the percentage of teenagers having one night stands are increasing and casual sex has more than quadrupled in the past few years, especially with the help of the internet. Needless to say, condom usage amongst this group is extremely low.Last, but not least, Taiwanese working men have Asia’s worst rate of using condoms. Many go abroad for business, to “socialize” with prostitutes or entertainers and bring home the virus. Taipei also is now considered as one of the sex capitals of Asia, with sex readily available 24 hours a day at many clubs, on the streets and via the internet. It has even been said that the highest risk for a Taiwanese woman to get HIV/AIDS is to be married to a Taiwanese man!When you put all these major factors together, Taiwan has a potential tidal wave or Tsunami-type situation. The wave has already begun to grow.