Monday, September 16, 2013

MCLSD CSD525 Study Mission to Chia Yi, Taiwan

1 - 7 September 2013

As part of the Master of Community Leaderhip & Social Development (MCLSD) CSD525 Study Mission module requirements, 4 of us embarked on a journey to Chia Yi, Taiwan. "Study mission gives students the opportunity to develop independent study skills through a study mission in another country. Students will be responsible for all logistical aspects, including financial expenses." (MCLSD Brochure).

The scope of our group was on Social Capital and Active Aging. Chia Yi was selected as it has the highest population proportion of elderly in Taiwan. We were fortunate to have Dalin Tzu Chi General Hospital (大林慈济综合医院) to host us.

Day 1

Arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport slightly before noon. There was a slight drizzle. We were very fortunate to come right after a flood (the magnitude of once in a 70 years) happened a few days ago.

Shuttle Bus to High Speed Rail (HSR) station

Our first selfie at MOS Burger

The Hospital Building

As the Hospital is located away from the city, hostel accommodation is provided for employees and guests. The guest unit comprised 4 bedrooms, with spacious living room and kitchen. Separate unit for males and females.

View from our hostel

Dinner was at a vegetarian cafe at the hospital, with our host, Chen Chun Po, Senior Supervisor, Department of Community Medicine and his wife, Hsieh Ning Huei who's also working in the same department.

The administrative levels in Taiwan are - the National, Special Municipalities 直辖市, County/City 县/市, Urban Township 镇/Rural Township 乡, followed by the Urban village 里/Rural village 村 and neighbourhood 邻. The leaders of each administrative level, excluding that of neighbourhoods, are elected (they can belong to political parties or stand as independent candidates) and receive salary/allowances. The Head of the village is supported by a civil servant 干事.

To receive funding support from the Government, villages have to set up a Community Development Association 社区发展协会. We understand the funding is about NT$20k a year. The Association could be helmed by the Head of the village or a different leader.

Chia Yi County is facing a situation where youths are leaving for the cities to pursue their careers, leaving behind their elderly parents.

The Hospital conducts community outreach to the villages and assists in community development. Focus group discussions with the elderly are held to understand their challenges. Elderly residents also visit other communities to learn how other elderly residents are taking ownership over the community issues.

A new measure recently taken in Taiwan is to get seniors to sell their houses to the Government, in exchange for routine payment. This is similar to the HDB Lease buyback scheme that we have. The issues faced by Taiwan are that seniors are not receptive to the scheme as traditionally, assets are passed down by ancestors and house ownership is a matter of having their own roots to society.

Day 2

We had vegetarian breakfast at the staff canteen. We met with Dr Cao Wen Long (曹汶龍) who shared with us about dementia as an issue for elderly. Taiwan is trying to shift from the terminology 痴呆症 (retarded) to 失智症 (loss of mental capacity). At present, Japan calls it 认知障碍 (cognitive dissonance). The terminology affects how one views the condition of dementia.

When seniors start to encounter memory loss such as forgeting to turn off the tap or cooking gas, the usual response to that by family members would be to ask the seniors not to wash clothes and cook. This speeds up the memory loss process as seniors stop doing such activities. Instead, family members should take time to do cooking and other errands with seniors so as to create the happy memory and decline the deterioration rate of memory loss. It also prevents seniors from feeling that they are "useless".

There is also the issue of dignity when family members change seniors' utensils to plastic/melamine ones to prevent them from breaking their plates. Instead, family members can try to rearrange the layout.

Stairwells are decorated as "Health Trails" to encourage others to use the stairs

We visited Minghua Community 明华社区 (Urban Village), where about 20% of the population are elderly aged 65 years and above.

Mr Jiang Zhi Hong 江志弘, committee member of Minghua Community Development Association & Brother of Head of Village Mr Jiang Zhi Ming 江志明, welcoming us. Mr Jiang Zhi Ming is also the Head of the Village.

Proud Displays of achievements

Artwork by residents

Organisational Chart

Anti-carbon and environmental projects are Minghua's key programmes. To finance projects and programmes for the community, the Association collects NT$100/mth membership fees from about 100 members it currently has. There are about 1,400 residents in Minghua Community. The Community also sends representatives for contests at township and national level to win cash awards for the association.

The Home Affairs Ministry also grades the association, and one of area which carries the most points is caring for elderly and those with special needs. The grading affects the funding the association can receive.

One issue faced by elderly is that there is a significant number of elderly men marrying foreign brides, who upon attaining their citizenship, often flee from their husbands. Language barriers and discrimination also pose issues to these foreign brides.

A cheque received from Taiwan President at a National Contest

Our visit made it into the Calendar of Events

As the village is hollowed out with exodus of younger people to the cities, there are many barren lands that are not being maintained by their owners. As such, the community leaders taken a proactive approach to contact the land owners for permission to upkeep and decorate these sites. The following photo shows used helmets being hung at fences as flower pots. This was a project done with a group of students.

The Mayor of the Dalin Township happens to be the youngest mayor in Taiwan. One of her brainchild was rebranding the Dalin town to be "My Darling" so as to attract youths and couples to the township. We were fortunate to meet her the next day.

The Village Head also tries to profile talented individuals within the community. One such person is Mr Guo Dui (郭堆) who makes lanterns out of used PET bottles. He documents his new lanterns at his blog.

We were honoured to leave our names at the top of his wall of visitors (see background)

With Mr Guo Dui, Master of PET Bottle Lanterns 宝特瓶灯笼达人

After taking a tour of the community on the solar-powered golf kart, we returned to the Association's building and left our names on the wall of visitors.

Lunch was at the Hospital. Employees bring along their containers and utensils so as to minimise wastage of plastic containers. In fact, one of the regulation is that polystyrene foam packaging is not to be carried into the hostels.

After lunch was the visit to the Seniors Learning Resource Centre (水上乡乐龄学习资源中心) Shuishang Rural Village of Shuishang Rural Township (水上乡水上村). The centre is an initiative by the Ministry of Education. The use of the term "乐龄" was an inspiration from Singapore's use of the term. The centre emulates the 快乐学堂 concept in Japan.

Seniors attending Karaoke Singing Class

The centre aims to get seniors to be engaged with the community, promoting active aging to prevent dementia and encourage self-initiated learning and service for the community. The centre enrols trainers to inculcate elements of traffic safety, falls prevention, crime prevention and fire safety in their courses. One such way is blending traffic safety lyrics with folk songs. There are also platforms for these senior learners to perform and showcase their talents through competitions and events.

The Government funds the first 10 lessons and the senior learners pay the rest of the school fees. The classes provide a platform for seniors to build up their social networks and know the help available. Seniors are then able to share these information with their neighbours when they are in need of assistance. When certain classmates are absent from class, the other classmates would call up to check on them.

Each class would elect a leader, who would coordinate with the Centre. The Centre champions for service learning for elderly, where talented students are also encouraged to provide lessons for their peers.

With Huang Yi Ping 黄意萍, Centre Principal 中心主任

Next, we proceeded back to the Hospital where we shared Singapore's experience in building social capital and active aging with the Department of Community Medicine.

The Night Market takes place once a week on Mondays. Hence, Zheng Qun took us to visit the market.

Day 3

We visited the Shanghe Urban Village (商和里) where the Republic of China Hondao Volunteer Association of the Hondao Senior Citizens' Welfare Foundation (弘道老人福利基金会中华民国弘道志工协会) is conducting an activity with seniors.

Seniors dancing to the tune of Gangnam Style

Head of Village addressing seniors on claims for damage caused by recent flood

The Leader of the Shanghe Volunteer Station, Mdm Lu Xiu Feng (吕秀凤), shared with us that the group raises fund by collecting receipts at participating outlets. In Taiwan, to prevent tax evasion, all receipts would carry a serial number and a lucky draw would be conducted. Winning receipts can be submitted to collect the cash prizes. As such, at many of the shops in Taiwan, NGOs would have their receipt donation booths there.

Many locals that we came into contact with shared that the State has to focus on developing the economy, hence people organisations and NGOs need to raise their own funds. They also understand that the Government has many other issues to be concerned about.

Interviewing seniors

Interesting milk carton hat

Next, we paid a visit and had a great discussion with the Mayor of Dalin Township.

Adding Mdm Huang Zhen Yu 黄贞瑜, Mayor of Dalin County 大林镇长 to our Facebook

In the afternoon, we visited an elderly day care centre at Gukeng Rural Village (古坑乡). The centre is managed by Yunlin Elderly Long-Term Care Association (社团云林县老人长期照护协会).

Doing song signing with elderly residents

Similar to Singapore, the Taiwan Government conducts open tender to get NGOs and other organisations to run day care centres for elderly. The centre currently provides service to 25 elderly.

To assist elderly to age in place, services are also provided to elderly at their home. The duration of service is determined by means-testing by the Government. Such services could include bathing, cooking and cleaning.

The Yunlin Elderly Long-Term Care Association helps plug the gap by providing meal delivery to seniors who are asset rich but cash poor. These seniors tend to not be able to qualify for government subsidies and assistance. Knowing that government resources are limited, the employees work collectively to find resources.

As shared by the Centre Manager, the greatest challenge faced by NGOs is resource linkage, and at times there are issues of overlap in resource use (资源重叠).

With Centre Manager Wang Xiu Jing (王秀菁)

We then returned and chilled at a cafe that provides complimentary cakes and drinks to Tzu Chi employees.

Day 4

We ventured out for breakfast at the street near the night market.

A poster announcing the increase in food prices

We walked into the wet market and was chatting among ourselves when this Auntie asked us where we came from. After knowing we are Singaporeans, she gladly gave us a sausage that is made by herself, and refused to accept our payment.

Thank you Auntie

We then went to one of the Tzu Chi's recycling stations. Tzu Chi is well known for its efforts in environment protection. Recycling is so effectively carried out that an incinerator in Taipei had to dig up buried thrash from landfills to sustain the burning.

Separation of transparent glass bottles and green glass bottles

Everyday, seniors would gather at the recycling station and assist in various roles, such as segregation of recyclables, in the morning. Lunch is provided to volunteers.

Understanding how to maximise the value of recyclable items is key for Tzu Chi. Knowing that properly folded newspapers are used to fit in mills, volunteers fold and pack collected newspapers to fetch in a higher price.

Volunteer making effort to fold the newspaper nicely

Blinds made by straws and bottle caps

The recycling station also hosts educational visits for students to learn about environmental protection.

Different light bulbs and their vottage

Volunteers remove the little plastic ring at the mouthpiece of PET bottles, so that the PET bottle is pure and fetch a higher price

Volunteer scraping to collect the copper wire

The Department of Neurology at Tzu Chi Dalin General Hospital conducted a study on the memory capacity of seniors who are active at the recycling station. They found that those in the 70s and 80s had as much memory capacity as those of 60s. With the study results, the hospital is looking towards leveraging on the recycling station to also perform the role of day care centres for elderly.

We had some free time in the afternoon and we left for cycling along the trail. Part of the trail used to be railway tracks. The sight of the green padi fields was overwhelmingly soothing to the eyes and soul.

Water Well

With automation, farmers no longer require oxen to plough the padi fields. Farmers have a schedule on the timing they should allow water to flow into their fields, so as not to cause other farmers down the line to be affected.

The rock blocks water from entering the padi field so that others in the downstream can have it

Another site for couples to have their wedding photo shoots

Dinner was at a restaurant we spotted during cycling.

Photo with the lady boss who treated us to beancurd dessert

Day 5

We visited a senior activity centre at Xingang Rural Township (新港乡), where Chiayi County Fu-Yun Welfare Services Association (嘉义县扶缘服务协会) is having their activities.

Welcomed by Mr Gao Can (高燦), Head of the Association (理事长)

Elderly playing ball games

We also took the opportunity to tour the Community. The Community is a popular tourism spot for local Taiwanese.

In our background is a ceramic art display, depicting 4 seasons 

We toured the community in this trailer that is designed to resemble a train

The Community revolved around the railway track which transports sugar in the past. While the track is no longer in use, it still forges a strong identity among the residents.

In the community, every house has its distinctive ceramic art decoration

Cool desserts for the hot day

Complimentary snacks

We happened to meet this Master who was enjoying his tea. After knowing we are from Singapore, he brought us to his store and let us try the traditional printing.

With our art pieces

We adjourned to lunch, where we had lengthy discussions. From the discussions, I learnt that the Association works with the end result of having local residents call the shot and run the show. The Association does not see itself permanently at the community. It sees itself empowering residents and developing the capacity so that they could run activities by themselves for themselves. I also learnt that with the vibrant political climate, certain NGOs with political leanings might not work well with those that are on the other side. The duplication of resource use can be a major issue and NGOs try to communicate and mark their turf so as to optimise resources.

The different steps in ceramics art

Whazzup, yo~ Eight Immortals jazz it up for you

With Ceramics Master Chen Zhong Zheng 嘉义县交趾陶艺师陳忠正

It is amazing how the Community develops itself to have such a strong and unique identity.

In the afternoon, we had a session with Dr Xu Qiu Tian (许秋田), Clinical Psychologist, Department of Neurology to learn about dementia among seniors. Strengths of seniors are assessed to focus their attention in doing those that they are good at so as to increase their confidence and preserve dignity.

We also visited the day care centre for seniors at Tzu Chi Dalin General Hospital.

Game stations made by students. The scoring is denoted by images of monetary coins 

Throw and hit Betty Boop to win

Interview by Tzu Chi staff

Farewell & Appreciation Dinner for our wonderful hosts

We first met Khai Jing, a Malaysian trainee doctor, at the hostel on our first day. Ever since then, we bumped into her every day without prior appointments. We celebrated her birthday at the Tzu Chi Cafe.

Day 6

Chun Po was scheduled to give a talk addressing to Master Cheng Yan and counterparts from all over Taiwan, so we observed the sharing session at the auditorium.

We met Prof Lai Ning Sheng (赖宁生教授), Superintendent of Tzu Chi Dalin General Hospital

Live telecast of the speech to different parts of Taiwan

We then left to visit a health screening activity, organised by the Chiayi County Health Bureau 嘉义县卫生局. We were hosted by Ms Lin Yu Zhen (林裕珍), Head of Health Promotion Department (健康促进科科长).

These buses carry X-ray machines and bring health screening closer to the people

Mammography Bus

Karaoke Singing to entertain elderly waiting for their turn

We then pulled over to a ghostly cafe, situated beside a haunted house.

Haunted House

Ghost-themed cafe

Saying goodbye to our Tzu Chi staff who interviewed us

Electronic Road Pricing in Taiwan too

Train Station schedule at Taichung

Tuition for those who wish to participate in examination to enter civil service

With our bowls of Mee Sua

Tony meets Tony at Zhonghua Night Market (中华夜市)

Touring the Fengjia Night Market (逢甲夜市)

Day 7

As Edmund sharply observed, how are those words written there?

Shu Hui and Tony with our new fondness in Insta apps

At Taiwan Taoyuan Departure Hall

Great to have these ceramic art as a greeting of farewell.

Till we meet again, Taiwan :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your feedback and comments.