PERSONAL NOTE: While Taiwan island and mainland China are engaged in the war of words – who is the real boss? – over the future and status of Taiwan island, some Taiwanese people are working hand in hand with mainland Chinese in some villages…to improve the lives of people in mainland China! In fact Taiwan is right across the strait from Fujian Province and that is where some Taiwanese people are working in the villages in Haicang in Fujian province. Many Taiwanese have moved or migrated to this province years ago and are now doing very well in Fujian province. One of the best hospitals in Xiamen where I maintain a rented apartment is operated by Taiwanese people. I once lived in an apartment near the campus owned by Taiwanese people. Taiwan and Fujian have maintained a good relationship for decades. peace, steve, february 21, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
Taiwan residents spread community spirit in Xiamen’s refurbished villages
By Zhang Yi and Hu Meidong | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-21
A strong sense of belonging is rising up alongside new apartment blocks.
Children hold handmade lanterns at neighborhood center in Haicang district, Xiamen, Fujian province, on Sunday. China Daily
Huang Yu-ching spent Sunday at a neighborhood activity center in a renovated single-story building in Xiamen, Fujian province. She was teaching a group of children to draw pictures on brightly-colored lanterns that would be used in the Lantern Festival on Tuesday.
In October, the 33-year-old from Kaohsiung in the south of Taiwan started work as assistant to the director of Zhongshan community in Xiamen’s Haicang district. One of her main responsibilities is to help cultivate a sense of community via public events, including traditional festivals.
Huang is following in the footsteps of Li Pei-chen, who in 2014 became the first person from Taiwan to become an assistant in Haicang. At the time, the district was starting a project to renovate residential areas and bolster local people’s sense of community.
Four years later, the village in which Li works has been transformed from a shabby collection of rundown buildings into a beautiful rural tourist spot. The project’s success prompted authorities to expand it across the district.
By July, Taiwan residents were working as assistants to 43 community directors in Haicang, covering all of its villages and communities. They have all attended university, and 13 have master’s degrees. The male-to-female ratio is roughly equal and 29 of them are age 35 or younger.
Hong Yizhen, deputy head of the district’s civil affairs bureau, said, “Taiwan started community-building programs much earlier than the Chinese mainland, so we hope the assistants will use their experience to help here.”
The assistants’ duties include village and community renovation, collecting historical information about communities, cultivating the habit of volunteering, exploring potential village industries and promoting cross-Straits exchanges.
In the activity center at Fengshan village in Haicang, children were running around a cement playground, while adults played table tennis or volleyball in a nearby yard. Residents can also spend time in a corridor that features photos and pictures of famous village forefathers and is decorated in the southern Fujian style.
A popular museum illustrating the history and development of the village is located in a renovated warehouse. The former mud floor, which was overgrown with weeds and often resembled a quagmire as a result of poor drainage, has been replaced by a cement base.
The renovation work was designed and carried out by Chang Te-wei after he became the assistant to the village head in mid-2017. The 42-year-old, from Taichung in central Taiwan, has nine years’ experience in architectural restoration work.
“The improvement in the local environment has seen a growing number of residents using the facilities, while others bring their children and voluntarily collect litter and rubbish strewn on the ground,” he said, adding that a range of activities will be organized this year.
Huang said activity centers are important for the development of community spirit because people need places to congregate, talk and make friends.
Zhongshan, the village where she works, has also been transformed. The local government demolished most of the buildings and replaced them with high-rise apartment blocks, some of which are still under construction.
However, Huang realized that it lacked an activity center, and in November she had the idea of locating it in a 60-square-meter kitchen that had been built to feed the demolition workers, but was abandoned when the work ended.
She refurnished the room by providing a tea table and installing a small library, including chairs and desks, and some fitness equipment.
“Everything is transportable in the event of future changes. Although construction of the buildings has not yet finished, people still need space for public activities,” she said.
A common bond
In December, when work on the activity center was almost complete, Huang invited about 20 children to draw on the exterior walls. She divided the lower sections of wall into rectangles to mimic the appearance of houses in villages in south Fujian.
“I told them to paint whatever they liked on the rectangles and said that from that day forward they could hang out at the center after school. We will arrange a lot of activities for them this year,” she said, adding that the children were quick to help when she was moving the new furniture into the building.
“As they play together, they will gradually form a common bond, a spirit of their own and a sense of belonging.”
Lu Shau-yuan, another assistant from Taiwan, also recognizes the importance of cultivating a sense of community. The 35-year-old works in Haisheng community, a residential area built to house people who have moved from other provinces for work.
Among the community activities Lu has arranged is a workshop for Gezai Opera, a popular art form in southern Fujian and Taiwan. He has also taught the children how to use the diabolo, a traditional yo-yo popular in North China.
During the festival to mark the winter solstice, northerners traditionally eat dumplings, while southerners eat tangyuan, small balls of rice filled with soup. Lu invited the locals to make tangyuan together and explained to the children that eating dumplings is also a Chinese tradition.
“In a new community where people come from different places, we need to cultivate a common spirit. We hope the residents will learn about different cultures and understand that they can coexist,” the former information technology engineer said.
In 2016, Lu and a friend moved to Xiamen to start a business importing wine.
However, a lack of resources made it difficult for them to operate on the mainland.
“I enjoy adventures and trying new things. Soon after I arrived, though, I realized I needed to start over, but I didn’t even have any friends here,” Lu said.
In 2017, when he learned about the assistant’s job, he was very interested, but he was not eligible because he lacked experience of community-building work.
However, he was given a job last year after the requirement for experience dropped during a new round of recruitment.
“It has provided a way of learning about the needs of local people and helped me make more friends,” he said.
He has also formed contacts with local businesspeople and invited them to perform charitywork in the community.
In October, he persuaded the CEO of a local tech company to hold a workshop where children were taught to make model planes, complete with engines. He has also arranged for entertainers to provide dance workshops in local communities.
“In Taiwan, it is common for companies to do charity work, but that’s not really the case on the mainland, so I have tried to interest local businesspeople in the concept. Negotiating with them is challenging, but also very interesting,” he said.
Before she moved to the mainland, Huang worked for a company in Taiwan that provided community-building services.
“Taiwan has had community-building programs for more than 20 years. Now, the mainland is developing rapidly and many rundown villages have been demolished. That means there is a need for projects to upgrade and build communities, so my job has a bright future,” she said.
Huang is happy to see the transformations taking place, especially when the younger children take new friends to see the images they have drawn on the walls of the activity center she built from the abandoned kitchen.
“One day, a kid asked me why he couldn’t find his Pikachu,” she said. “He had drawn the cartoon character on the wall, but he couldn’t see it. Eventually we realized that it was still there, but a parked car was blocking the view.”