Taiwan group raises over NT$850,000 for SVG volcano disaster relief

Tunghai University's Alumni Association New Taipei branch pledged a donation of over NT$850,000 (US$30,579) after a fundraiser luncheon on Saturday to help Caribbean ally Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) with recovery efforts in the wake of a volcanic eruption seven months ago.

The pledge of NT$854,200 was made to SVG Ambassador to Taiwan Andrea Bowman by Tunghai University alumni members and former Taiwan Resident Ambassador to SVG Elizabeth Chu (???) during a banquet reception in New Taipei to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations and solid friendship between the two countries.

Close to a hundred Taiwanese attended the luncheon, which included music performances and a presentation on the culture and history of SVG, one of Taiwan's closest allies.

Bowman expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the donation, which will go towards providing assistance to Vincentians after the initial explosive eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, displacing about 20,000 residents after it blanketed the country in a thick layer of ash on April 9.

"This is amazing, so generous, I can't find the words," she told CNA.

She said that the eruptions fully ended about two months ago and people are returning to their homes gradually with some families still living in evacuation centers.

"But if you could understand the devastation was terrible and it was followed by Hurricane Elsa, so we had lahars (volcanic mudflows), so we had lots of stuff being moved down the valleys by the water," Bowman said. "Having people resettle and return to their homes is taking a very long time."

She intends to work with her embassy staff to use the money on areas such as education, Bowman said.

As a career educator, Bowman expressed her concern for Vincentian children who have been unable to attend school.

"There have been tentative and slow attempts to restart schooling for children but this has to be done in a dual mode, online schooling and face-to-face schooling. So right now, that is a great challenge as a number of children do not have internet devices necessary to access online schooling," Bowman said.

Chu, herself a Tunghai University alumni, called for people at the event to support SVG because the Caribbean country is one of the most vocal in supporting Taiwan's inclusion in United Nation events.

Chu arrived in SVG in August 2003 as Taiwan's first resident ambassador and spent two and a half years in the country.

Meanwhile, James Sims, dean of the International College at Tunghai University, said he is looking to attract Vincentian students to his programs.

"We try to create an international environment in Taiwan. For domestic students, many may not have a chance to study overseas but they can get an international experience here in Taiwan and for international students, it gives them a chance to get a Taiwan experience," Sims said.

Taiwan and the SVG established diplomatic relations on August 15, 1981, resulting in over 40 years of friendship that has been further cemented by 10 visits to Taiwan by SVG Prime Minister Ralph Everard Gonsalves.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel