FEATURE: Taiwan offers overseas youngsters chance to volunteer
2012/9/8 下午 06:53:00
By James Lee, CNA staff reporter
in the high mountains and breathing the fresh air, a group of foreign
college students from eight different countries enjoyed a rare
opportunity to experience Taiwan in a way that few tourists can. They
are on a two-month program that allows them to stay for free in
dormitories operated by the Forestry Bureau, while volunteering their
services in Taiwan's forest recreation areas.
"Even before I
leave Taiwan, I've already started to miss it," said Maya Le of Vietnam,
one of the 16 college students who participated in what the volunteers
called the "insightful volunteer tourism" program on the island between
July 1 and Aug. 31 through the global youth organization AIESEC.
has long been noted for its delicious cuisine and its food culture, but
during her stay, what impressed Le the most was its "breathtaking"
scenery, said the 20-year-old English major.
"I have fallen in
love with the mountains," Le said, adding that she used to be a city
girl but her stay in Taiwan has convinced her to spend more time in
The Forestry Bureau under the Cabinet-level Council of
Agriculture kicked off the volunteer program in 1996 and since then has
recruited some 1,500 volunteers to work as tour guides across the
country. But this year is the first time the program has been opened to
"We would like to attract more young people
to join the effort to maintain the forests and, at the same time,
promote Taiwan's nature," Weng Li-hsin, a section chief at the bureau,
This year, 16 foreign and 34 local volunteers have been
recruited. They were assigned to eight different district offices of
the bureau and were asked to mainly do manual labor. Part of their work
includes learning from experienced volunteers to help bureau maintain
the forest recreation area, organize summer camps and sometimes give
As part of the program, all the young volunteers
were encouraged to post articles and pictures of their experience on the
Internet, with the aim of promoting Taiwan tourism, especially its
forest recreation areas to overseas visitors, said Weng.
attracted over 6 million foreign visitors in 2011 -- a record number for
the country, but only one fifth of the tourists visited its 18 forest
recreation areas, according to statistics. Some 60 percent of the
foreign visitors were from China, while those from the United States and
Europe accounted for less than 10 percent, statistics showed.
said she wanted to use this opportunity to let the volunteers spread
the word so that more people around the world, as well as in Taiwan,
will know about its other side, which is generously endowed by nature.
So far, foreign volunteers' blogs alone have attracted some 30,000 clicks.
Tao-sheng, the bureau's director-general told CNA that this program has
gotten great feedback. The bureau is planning to not only duplicate it
but also expand the project next year in terms of the number of
volunteers or their service hours.
It will serve as the
foundation of other similar projects, and the bureau will gather all
participants' opinions and use them to further improve and enhance any
future activities, he added.
Describing the program as
"successful and rewarding," Lee said it is one of the best ways to
experience the beauty of Taiwan, not just the landscape, but also the
local culture and friendliness of Taiwanese people.
farewell party for the volunteers, Cuong Dao of Vietnam said his
Mandarin has greatly improved over the past 60-odd days, which is
Dao said he chose to volunteer in Taiwan over Malaysia and Indonesia as he wanted to improve his Chinese.
"I wanted to be a tour guide in the future, so this volunteer job is like my dream job," he told CNA.
volunteers also enjoyed their stay in Taiwan, making good use of the
time by exploring the subtropical island in their own ways.
went biking along the eastern coast. Others went camping by the
3,310-meter-high Chia Ming Lake. Still others made cultural excursions
at local temples and historic sites. It was like "playing and working at
the same time," they said.
"I'm really impressed by Taiwan and
everything here," said Agnieszka Kurzeja of Poland, who said she is in
love with Asian culture and has learnt a lot about Taiwan during the
program. "I think it even surpassed my expectations."
Timakova of Russia said that she is already planning to visit Taiwan
again for at least several weeks with her friends, as she wants to
participate in Taiwanese festivals.
"There are so much worth to see and so much worth to do here," she said.