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Reflections on Taiwan

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by Anesia O. Richards 23.NOV.07

From October 3rd- 16th, 2007 I attended a workshop on Community Development and the Tourism Industry in Taiwan. It was an experience to remember and I wish to share a summary of my reflections with readers, as we all consider the kindness of Taiwan to her allies such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

The workshop which was hosted by the Taiwan International Cooperation and development Funding-ICDF, involved a mixture of lectures and visits to communities within the Hsinchu and Miaoli County and Cities. It saw a total of 26 participants from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and the Pacific Islands. The Caribbean representatives included Haiti, Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. Participants gave country reports on their respective countries’ tourism and community development situations while Taiwan’s political leaders and community tourism associations shared experiences and knowledge of their work in community and tourism development.

No Taiwan Miracle

When many persons think of Taiwan they think of a developed country, despite its size, with many lessons to share with countries like ours. While this is true, we were ever reminded, while in Taiwan that there is “No Taiwan Miracle”. Our learning experiences during the workshop attested to this. Community groups and associations and even government administrators shared quite frankly the many challenges they face in their work and reiterated the importance of hard work, cooperation and governmental support in succeeding in Community Development throughout Taiwan. We visited communities and saw work in progress where efforts they make to preserve their culture and heritage are concerned. There were community museums for example, where objects unique to their respective communities are kept. There was also a strong presence of the merge between Agriculture and Tourism as was seen in the Shanjiao Community. There they use the dried rush grass to make hats, bags, slippers, pencil cases to name a few. We saw women at work and discovered that they involve thee youth through having competitions among them to come up with the winning designs for the craft. One community even had a “plant hospital” where they provided the service of caring for plants and curing plant disease problems. It was there we discovered the famous “magic crystals”…multi-colored crystals which when soaked in water swell and become the soil in which potted plants are placed. These crystal like pieces contain fertilizers which help the plant to grow and there is no need to add soil. The colors also make for decoration.

Essential Learnings

At the closing ceremony participants were placed in groups of 5 and we had to do accomplishment presentations. My group-group B, asked me to present on our behalf. The summary of our essential learnings were:

1. Need to directly involve community members for effective and sustainable development.

2. Importance of strong Political support for Community Development success

3. Need for Institutional Strengthening/Capacity Building of Community Organizations

4. Sensitization of Communities on Economic and Environmental value of their Natural Resources.

5. Integration of other industries into Community Development. e.g. Agriculture

We won the prize of best group presentation and received special Chinese teas, including the famous “Chinese beauty tea” as gifts.

Tree Planting Ceremony

Perhaps the most impressive highlight of our stay was the tree planting ceremony held on the last day of the workshop. This was organized by the Mayor of Hisnchu city, affectionately known as Mayor Lin. The impressive ceremony was held outside the Hsinchu City Tourism Service centre in Hsinchu city, where Mayor Lin planted trees for each of the 26 participants. Implanted plaques were placed in front of each tree with the participants’ names, job titles, country flags, Taiwan’s flag and the name of the tree. There were also shovels with big red bows on them and participants were equipped with white gloves. We had a chance to be photographed with Mayor Lin and the Secretary General of the Taiwan ICDF- Chen Cheng-Chung, shoveled dirt onto our tress and were graced with a beautiful speech from the mayor about his reasons for planting the trees and the symbolism thereof.

I had personally been memorizing a speech in mandarin Chinese since the day I learnt that I was going to Formosa (indigenous name for Taiwan-means beautiful country). I was asked to say it then. I thanked the mayor for what he had done for us and expressed hopes that as the trees grew, so would the relationships between our respective countries and Taiwan. It was a marvelous outward demonstration of Taiwan’s appreciation for her friends and we were all touched. To think I have a tree all the way in Taiwan!! My speech in Chinese followed and it was met with a big applause from our Taiwanese friends. The mayor thanked me personally. As a foreign language speaker (French and some Spanish) I appreciated how fascinated persons can be to hear a non native speaker speak their language so I knew I had to say something important in Mandarin. My speech was: “A democratic Taiwan which has sacred regard for the rights and freedoms of men is always better than a communist country which interferes with those rights and freedoms”. And boy did they love it! The Media was present and came to me to ask for the exact script of my speech. Since then I’ve seen it posted in a few press releases in Chinese online news.

I wish to express thanks to Ambassador Cheng and the Taiwan Government and Taiwan ICDF for the opportunities they allow Vincentians through programmes like the one I participated in. Secretary Nicole at the local embassy here was of great help to me also, as she recorded my speech in Chinese and helped me get my tones right for the ‘speech moment’. Thanks go out also to My Honorable Minister of Tourism, Youth & Sports-Glen Beache and Permanent Secretary Laverne Grant for nominating me to attend the workshop. It has been an experience to remember.

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