Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) A free food program initiated by migrants and international students for homeless people kicked off on Saturday in Taipei to thank Taiwan for its successful disease prevention efforts against COVID-19.
The “Students Helping Initiative Program (SHIP)” saw some 20 Vietnamese students, new immigrants and their children, and parishioners of Taipei’s Saint Christopher’s Church hand out over 100 chicken drumstick lunch boxes to homeless people at Taipei Main Station, the city’s main transport hub.
The homeless were happy to receive food Saturday as for many of them it was their first meal of the day, and were eager to open the packed lunch boxes as soon as it was placed in their hands or on their makeshift beds of cardboard and newspapers.
“Thank you very much! I have been waiting the whole day for this meal,” said a homeless man in his 60s.
The program reflects the gratitude migrants and international students have towards Taiwan for its swift and successful prevention measures against the novel coronavirus, said Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet, assistant parish priest at Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei.
“This program shows that international students appreciate Taiwan and they are not only here for study but they can also provide their assistance to the local community,” Thiet told CNA.
Taiwan’s swift and successful disease prevention efforts have been praised by the international community both domestically and abroad, as the country recorded only 474 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, with most imported, since the outbreak began late last year.
Tam Nguyen, a 24-year-old Vietnamese research student at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, said that Taiwan’s success in controlling the pandemic has allowed him to be able to concentrate on his studies.
“However, the situation in Vietnam is not so great recently and I have been worrying about my hometown,” Nguyen said.
The free-meals program will continue, with food to be given on the first Saturday of each month in various locations in northern Taiwan.
The goal is to help homeless people, the elderly, and disabled children, Thiet said, adding that food will also be available for international students to take at the church.
“Currently we are ordering cooked food from restaurants, but we are also exploring ways to have the students help make the food, so this way they can feel more directly involved in helping people,” Thiet said.
Saint Christopher’s Church was built by Americans and opened in July 1958 to hold religious services for the United States military and allied forces stationed in Taiwan at the time.
Over the past 62 years, the church has become a place of worship for people from all walks of life, and it now plays an important role in the lives of migrants and migrant workers in Taiwan.