Four volunteers from the Republic of China (Taiwan) are currently here in St. Kitts and Nevis assisting the Federation in several areas, while experiencing living and working outside of their home country.
The four volunteers are Lin Ya-Chen (Chen or Ya Chen) whose specialised area is nutrition and public health, and will be placed in the Ministry of Health; Chiou Wen-Chi (Ivan) who specializes in Information Technology, and will be in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Wu Tzu-Han (Mavvis) will be placed in the Department of Agriculture, St. Kitts, and Tsay Pei-Hsuan (Wendy) who specialises in Nutrition, will be in the School Meals Programme, Ministry of Education, Nevis Island Administration.
Ambassador Tom Lee said that alongside the cordial relationship between the governments of Taiwan and St. Kitts and Nevis, they are working hard to further ties between people of the two countries.
“Hence we introduced the scholarships and volunteer programme. All four of the volunteers are coming to the Caribbean for the first time. Ya Chen is in her second year, and the others have just arrived for a couple of months. They are willing to spend time contributing to SKN here without a salary. They are like cultural ambassadors. In doing so, they also gain experience of living and working outside Taiwan.”
Lee explained the process of how the volunteers were chosen to serve in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Every year there are two recruiting seasons. When it’s time, Taiwan ICDF (International Cooperation and Development Fund) informs our Embassies and overseas offices, and our embassy passes the message to MFA, who will gather all requests and applications from different ministries of SKN and relay to us.
“After we submit the applications from SKN to Taiwan ICDF, they process it and satisfy as much as possible. But not all demand can be met. For example, ICT workers are very demanded in Taiwan, so it’s not easy to find someone in the industry who will come abroad as a volunteer. This means that Ivan has made quite a sacrifice.”
Mavvis highlighted what inspired her to become a volunteer.
“I saw the opportunity on the website of ICDF, after some research, I become fascinated by the beauty of St Kitts and Nevis, so I applied right away.”
She also spoke of the experiences she has had in the Federation thus far.
“For example, in Taiwan chickens rarely fly, but here they do! And here I got to see the ocean every day. Back home I couldn’t because I live in the central part of Taiwan, which is farther away from the sea.”
Ivan said that during the pandemic, this opportunity offers a rare chance to leave the country and go work and live abroad.
“Being here surrounded by beautiful scenery and great and friendly people, I’m having a great time. Besides my IT job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I also teach Mandarin to staff in the Ministry.”
He also discussed his time working thus far in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“I found people from Taiwan and SKN have a strong link. When I arrived in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was greeted in Mandarin and surprised. It turned out some officers have studied in Taiwan before, and in the Ministry where I work, I’ve made a lot of good friends. Some invite me to local activities on weekends, like Hash.
He said he has enjoyed the hospitality thus far.
“On last Christmas Day, I was invited to an officer’s house. I was the only one from outside the family. People are all very friendly here. They smile at me. One time a young boy approached me in the street and wanted to have my phone number. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and couldn’t talk for long.”
Wendy, explaining her decision to volunteer, said she was eager to experience a different culture.
“So when I saw the post I felt interested, and I wanted to apply what I learnt in university here in SKN. I am now working on Nevis’s school meal programme. We are doing a “Tour of Caribbean”, introducing different dishes from our neighbours such as Anguilla, Montserrat etc.”
She noted that it was a blessing to see the ocean every day and was one of her favourite aspects of being in the Federation.
Ya Chen, who is a retired nurse, said that since her retirement three years ago, she wanted to find something to do.
“I found this volunteer job. It has been a great time. I already renewed the contract, and enter the second year of service. In my work, I found that a lot of food is wasted here, so I have been trying to change that, working with the Health Promotion Unit to promote healthy cuisine using many local ingredients.”
She said that in Taiwan, organic food is costly, but not so much here, so people should be encouraged to eat organic.
“I have hosted two episodes of a cooking show, but they are not yet released. The show teaches people how to cook using simple but tasty local ingredients, such as Chinese Violet, a very common plant here. It can be used in fried eggs. In my experience, it’s a surprising delight to many locals when they learn that this plant is edible.”