This is the birth of a small mentorship or Big Brother & Sister-esque project, I’m kicking off based on the needs I see but tailored for Taiwan and its diverse culture.
WHY: All too often in our volunteer work, we forget about what the actual person we may be trying to help. We have treated them as peoples, as a group, as “they” defined under the umbrella of ‘assistance required.’ We look at the statistics, patterns, trends, all the generalities. After almost a year of continuous volunteer work in Taiwan, it is not always the glutton of clothing donations, nor toys, nor money, that some people crave.
What a child or young adult requires once their basic needs have been fulfilled (food, clothing, shelter) is to no longer be seen not as a ‘disadvantaged youth’ or ‘someone’ that needs help; but to be called and recognized by name. If these people are the socially marginalized and deemed invisible by society they need to be seen and heard. In this world where all of us are increasingly linked by anonymity and vague relationships via the internet, we need to begin to build meaningful relationships based on trust and occasionally yes – eye contact (you can read Sherry Turkle!).
If children and the youth are the future should we not invest all we can in them?
What we are looking for are mentors with a big heart and open ears, patience. Interested in sharing their experience and time. A kindred spirit!
Language Proficiency: Level 1-5 (but will vary)
Task: for the first few months, I will arrange for the below:
Once a month we will carpool or gather resources to head up to the mountains/etc and hang out with the kids for a few hours. I mandate small, intimate groups of no more than 4-5. To start bonding, we can join in small group activities pertaining to the locale, such as a day hike and other outings where they can reveal to us their neighborhoods and cultures. We need to remember their names and they should remember ours – we will no longer be simply volunteers or ‘the foreigners.’ It may take time to build a sustaining relationship and the trust.
For those who cannot speak well enough to communicate with the children, we will also start off by having kind translators.
My friend suggested we can play games such as UNO to build relationship with the kids as it requires no specific language sets and it really shows we take the time to do things with them that their parents are too busy for. Eventually down the line, volunteers are encouraged to maintain contact with their individual but I am always open to assisting with coordination. In the future hopefully twice a year we will be able to have the children on a field trip to the beach for a BBQ, bike ride in Bali, skateboarding, picnic in an amazing butterfly park, or museum, etc.
*** If you are interested in being a short term volunteer we may also bring in ‘special’ guest mentors who will lead us on a small baking, kite building, or art class. Contact me!
What is Required : Minimum 1-Year Commitment
These are just the bare bones below to give you an idea:
a) Physically visit their child least once a month (leaving the country is permitted, notification in advance and we can work out Skype conversations and special post cards, or programs so the kids still feel involved).
b) 2 handwritten letters a month – that first begins with the note to the parents
c) Scheduled Skype call at least once a month (Webcam)
d) Commitment to contact the child on specific holidays – birthdays, cultural holidays, etc
e) Interest in the child’s cultural experiences and native language
Age Groups: We will target those in the brackets Youth: 8-18 / Young Adult: 18-34
Location: We will begin this with individuals in the Wufong Community and will provide meetup points later (for the first 2-3 months I can try to drive and we carpool from Taipei, the ride is approx $500NT gas money RT). I will also take a look at Harmony Home based in Taipei and begin to set up different chapters for various organizations (i.e. Wufong Chapter). Additionally, I also have leads all throughout Taiwan so please be patient!
This will officially kick off in August. Email me for more details. We’d love and require people to visit Wufong, Hsinchu to start off with, us to get to know them before they commit to anything long term. There are often people heading up, especially for the Rangi Association, so contact me and I can put you in touch with them!