Countown to Vegas – Story #5 – Taiwan

May 22, 2009

This story coves a remote region in Taiwan and a new program started up through Amway’s 50th anniversary One by One Fund for Children. It’s part of a weekly series of previewed One by One stories.

The principal comes to town

When Cho Shih Hung came to the Chu-Lu Junior High School to become its principal, he had high hopes. Originally from Taipei, he was a big-city man with experience as a teacher and a government administrator in Taitung County Government’s Education Bureau.

But Taitung County is not the big city.

While Taitung is a beautiful area in the tropical southeast region of Taiwan, where the lush, green mountains race down to the Pacific beaches, it has some of the poorest families in the country that struggle to provide for their children.

Taitung County has the lowest household income in Taiwan. This results in the lowest tax revenue for the county, which puts a strain on all public services, especially education. Teacher ratios have declined, and existing teachers must take on the additional burden of three to four more subjects, plus administrative work that is outside their areas of specialization. Many leave, and those who stay must struggle with a population of students where 30 to 70 percent need subsidies. In some schools, more than 60 percent of student families could not afford to pay expenses for education.

Taitung has also faced severe population loss, with families migrating to major metropolitan areas like Taipei. Some parents have to leave their children behind with grandparents while they set out to find work. This has caused a wide generation gap and low expectations for education, in a country where education is highly valued.

Yet these challenges are what attracted Principal Cho to Chu-Lu Junior High. And he remembers how instrumental his own Junior High teachers were to his success. “The biggest challenge here is lack of inspiration,” says Principal Cho. “There are not enough opportunities for these students to know what is possible.”

His first order of business as principal was to get kids in the classrooms. Many had dropped out or weren’t attending on a regular basis. So he began to frequent the places where kids hung out, encouraging them to return. He visited the parents, grandparents or guardians who were responsible for the well-being of the students. And he found many didn’t send their kids to school simply because it had a low reputation for success. Principal Cho promised them that things were about to change, and that their children needed to be at school to benefit from the changes.

He asked teachers to make additional sacrifices. They relinquished their school-funded dormitories so students in difficult family situations could stay there. Principal Cho found his own place in the city.

He asked teachers to work harder. To spend more time with the students. To never give up.

In every classroom, there are four maps. One is of Taitung County, another is of Taiwan, another is Greater China, and the other is of the world. Principal Cho says, “We want our students to feel they know their own country. But even more, we want them to know that their dreams are unlimited, and can carry them to different parts of the world.”

He is now seeing to it that his students experience more of the world in their junior high years. He has already taken 80 students to Taipei to visit the Palace Museum, the Taiwan Legislature, and view a National Concert.

“I want these kids to know how other people live and work and study,” says Principal Cho. “After they see these things, they compare it to their own lives and find inspiration.”

He has also begun an aggressive drive to improve the aging school facilities that need multiple upgrades and repairs. The students needed more books and musical instruments too. He is working with the government, corporations, private donors … anyone who will listen to the message of what is happening at Chu-Lu Junior High.

At the end of the day, the entire school gathers on the track field. After a few brief announcements, Principal Cho leads the students – one classroom at a time – on a two-lap run around the track. With the country flag flying over the track, the laps become a symbol of unity, of purpose and of healthy minds and bodies.

Over the past year, the students are trickling back in. The school went from 87 students, to 112 students in the first half of the year. Enrollment is now 122 students, and rising. There has been a notable decrease in both dropouts and juvenile delinquency. And there is a new pride and drive to succeed that is evident in the classrooms and in the students of Chu-Lu Junior High.

An inspired doctor and a handsome CEO

Jia-Nian Xyu is a 15 year-old student at Chu-Lu Junior High. He lives in the school dormitories because in his family’s home, with two sisters and a brother in a crowded house, it is too difficult for him to focus on his studies.

Xyu is one of the top students at the school – officially the head of his class. After the school day ends, he begins studying, usually for around four hours. He knows how important it is to learn, and that he will be competing with others to get into the best senior high school, and to study at the best university. In order to ease the burden on his parents, Xyu has made a deal with other students to share textbooks, so they don’t have to all buy separate copies.

Last year, Xyu and his family were in a severe accident. His little sister died and he was critically injured. While in the hospital, he was inspired by the special effort given by a doctor who slowly and expertly brought him back to health. Now Xyu has dreams of being a doctor, and passing along the skill and nurturing he was given.

While his favorite subjects are science, chemistry and biology – fitting for a future doctor – Xyu still finds time to have fun. He plays the slide trombone in the school marching band. He plays basketball and hangs out with his friends whenever he can.

One of those friends is Wei-Lun Hong, who is 14 and in the same grade. Hong lives in nearby Chulu Village and walks to school every day.

Hong’s passions are just as strong as his friend Xyu’s, but focused on different strengths. Hong is an artist, and creates beautiful drawings and comics. His favorite subjects are Art and Chinese.

And Hong has an inspirational goal for his career. He wants to be “the first handsome CEO.” He sees the business world run by aging, bald men who don’t necessarily represent the youth and vitality of the people who buy products. His goal is to change that business culture in a new and bold way.

To support his family, Hong works part time in a fruit farm after school. In hot seasons, he works late in the farm and stays there over night, and then it’s up again early to make it to school on time.

The work ethic and ideas of Xyu, Hong and the students of Chu-Lu Junior High School foretells a strong future for the next generation in Taitung.

Give them an opportunity to fulfill the future

Amway became involved with the Chu-Lu Junior High School over the past year through its One by One Campaign for Children. This was part of a global effort to deepen involvement with children’s causes around the world in honor of Amway’s 50th anniversary.

In Taiwan, Amway built a successful program in partnership with its distributors called Hope Maker. In this program, distributors sell products like hats, umbrellas and scarves that are assembled by people who have mental or physical disabilities, or burn victims. They partner with local charities like the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation and Li-Da Training Center for Disability. This “Supportive Employment” concept provides meaningful job skills and employment through sewing and packaging. The products provide a way to raise money for the organizations that run the programs.

Since 1999, Hope Maker has donated NT$ 16 million ($510,000 USD) to non-profit organizations. It has become a well-known cause in Taipei and across the country, with distributors and independent bloggers chatting about the program and its impact. Amway even launched a television commercial this year to raise awareness of the cause and inspire kids to dream big. The slogan for Hope Maker is translated as: Give them an opportunity to fulfill the future.

“Amway is a company that offers opportunity,” says Martin Liou, Amway Taiwan’s Managing Director. “Some people do not need the business opportunity now, but they do need hope. We want to offer hope to people others might consider hopeless, with the ultimate goal of making them independent. It’s the same concept that we offer to our distributors. Hope Maker has been a great success. But we knew we could do more.”

After researching children’s causes in Taiwan, Amway staff learned of the plight of junior high schools in Taitung. They quickly decided to use this opportunity to expand the Hope Maker program to include support of high needs junior high schools in Taiwan. “The gap between the rich and poor families has become more and more serious in Taiwan,” says Mr. Liou. “We believe Hope Maker will help children from poor families change their future through education.”

Working with the Taitung County Government and Bureau of Education, Amway established a program that will provide subsidies for the students and for the schools. Amway will give approximately NT$4,000,000 ($125,000 USD) each year to provide partial tuition to disadvantaged students in 20 junior high schools that serve around 1,000 students. Another NT$3,200,000 ($100,000 USD) will be given each year to provide subsidies for 8 remote high schools in Taitung County. Amway committed to make this partnership succeed by guaranteeing funding for three years.

“Even students in poorer communities can achieve great success if they can focus on their studies,” says Mr. Liou. “Junior High Schools in these areas have been largely overlooked by other programs. We want these students to be able to learn, free from interruption due to economics.”

Distributors get on board

Amway distributors in Taiwan have been critical to the success of the Hope Maker program so far. They have brought the enthusiasm and support that has enabled more than 500 disabled people to benefit from the sale of Hope Maker products.

It should be no surprise that distributors would want to fully engage with this new project. But nobody realized just how popular it would become and how much distributors would investment.

Holly Chen is one of the highest-achieving distributors around the world, holding the level of Founders Crown Ambassador. Ms. Chen is a Taiwan native, but has built her business in many countries around the world. She has become very successful helping others find success in the Amway business.

When Ms. Chen heard about the new program serving schools in Taitung County, she got involved personally. Earlier this year, she visited the Chu-Lu Junior High School, visiting with the principal and teachers, spending time listening to students, and delivering a powerful speech on the importance of dreaming big. Ms. Chen was a former teacher herself before entering the Amway business full time, and understands the challenges that the students face.

Holly Chen developed a third facet to the program, a scholarship for junior high students to attend senior high school. She gave $4,000,000 TWD ($125,000 USD) of her own money to fund the program for the first year, which will help approximately 100 students.

In addition to Ms. Chen’s involvement, distributors in Taiwan will have the opportunity to get personally involved by mentoring students with the exchange of letters. They will also host groups of students on “summer camp” visits to Taipei, beginning in 2010. Amway expects this program to generate more than 80,000 volunteer hours over the three-year program.

Taiwan - Taitung County School

Taitung County School - A Future CEO

Student at Taitung County School, Taiwan

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