American volunteers help Xiaolin Village children learn English
Taipei, Aug. 28 (CNA) An English summer camp in the Xiaolin Village in the mountainous Jiasian District in Kaohsiung ended on Aug. 23 with a theatrical production after five days of English lessons and creative activities.
The summer camp was designed around music, science and art under the theme of environmental protection.
It was held at Xiaolin Elementary School, which is located in Xiaolin Village, the site of a massive disaster that killed 462 residents during Typhoon Morakot in 2009.
Wannie Wang, an assistant professor of education at St. Lawrence University, led a group of nine volunteers from various universities in the United States to teach English at the summer camp.
With nine student volunteers from Taiwan universities and a local facilitator, the group of 20 spent five days teaching English to about 20 elementary school children at the summer camp.
Wang, an expert on multicultural and international education, was born and raised in Taiwan and has been leading the annual volunteer effort since 2010.
She said it all began when her students at St. Lawrence University in the state of New York learned about the 2009 Morakot disaster and asked what they could do for the children of Xiaolin Village.
At first, the students donated storybooks, which Wang said she delivered in person to the principal of Xiaolin Village Elementary School.
The principal, however, said that while the book donation was appreciated, what was needed most were people to teach the children English, Wang said.
The volunteer effort started with St. Lawrence students teaching weekly English classes via Skype, she said.
In 2010, the first group of volunteers traveled from the U.S. to teach at the summer camp in Xiaolin and Wang later founded the "Project Let's Go" Association, in collaboration with Taiwan participants, to continue the effort and initiate other activities.
On the question what motivates her to keep going with the project, Wang said it is a desire to maintain the bonds that have been built with the children and other villagers who are mostly aboriginals of the Taivoan tribe.
In addition, a socio-economic network has been established, creating greater global and cultural awareness among the university student volunteers, Wang said.
Eric Beeler, a program director on the project who has participated in the Xiaolin Village camp three times, said the experience has helped him grow as person and acquire real world knowledge and leadership skills.
Wang, meanwhile, told CNA that she is hoping to expand her efforts to Rwanda in East Africa, taking American and Taiwanese university student volunteers there to teach English.
Some 460 residents of Xiaolin died when the village was buried under a massive landslide during Typhoon Morakot in August 2009.
Survivors of the disaster now live in three new settlements -- one in Jiasian District and the other two in the neighboring Shanlin District. (Courtesy of CNA)