(photo by Kent Chuang)
Before Lee Chia-tung, professor emeritus at National Tsing Hua University, founded the rural educational organization Boyo Social Welfare Foundation, he taught at St. Teresa Children’s Center for many years. When asked why he didn’t just donate money instead of teaching at the center, he quotes Mother Teresa of Calcutta in saying, “We ourselves must sow the seeds of love, and we must do so one at a time.”
Over the past two decades, Lee Chia-tung and other teachers at Boyo have not only assisted students with their schoolwork, they have also spread positive energy to help students navigate their confusing adolescent years.
Taiwan Panorama previously reported on the Boyo Foundation in 2009. Today, 11 years later, we interview three students who attended classes at Boyo after-school centers to discuss the role Boyo played in helping them grow and find their own ways in life.
Getting children to realize their own value
Lin Haoxing, 28, used to take classes at a Boyo after-school center in Puli, Nantou County, and was a full-time math teacher with Boyo in Taitung for three years. He is currently a procurement representative for Boyo’s Puli center. Having gone from student to teacher, Lin has an intimate understanding of the effort and patience required at the front lines of education.
Lin Haoxing started at Boyo in fifth grade, and all he knew of it at the time was that it was a “free cram school.” Classes there gave him a chance to make friends with students from different schools, and the teachers would patiently adapt their teaching methods to best accommodate each individual student. “I remember that I was constantly changing classes back then.” At the time, the Boyo Foundation held regular tests to measure each student’s academic progress, and divided the students into classes based on the results.
When he was a second-year in junior high school, Lin’s grades improved dramatically. “I usually didn’t study especially hard, but I would go to classes at Boyo every evening. My classmates noticed I was always messing around, yet still getting the highest score on every test,” he recalls happily.
Truly inspired by all that Boyo gave him, in his last semester of senior high he decided to give back to society by becoming a volunteer Chinese language teacher for Vietnamese students. Every summer during college, he went to the Boyo centers at Xinyi in Nantou County and in Penghu to teach students from rural communities. Lin hoped that through this work he could help broaden students’ perspectives and get them to set bigger goals for themselves, an educational philosophy held by Boyo’s founder, Lee Chia-tung.
When he graduated, Lin joined Boyo’s Taitung after-school center as a math teacher.
Perhaps due to his time as a student at Boyo, Lin always knew the right way to deal with unruly students. He did so by arranging a time with the students to play board games after math class. Students who would normally mess around during class started working harder to finish the practice problems in anticipation of playing board games afterwards. To help students who learned at a slower pace, he would split each concept into smaller, more easily digestible parts. By slowing down his teaching, he helped these students achieve noticeable improvements in their grades.
Lin Haoxing went from getting help to giving it, and in the process came across students with a variety of family backgrounds. “Not every child has someone waiting at home for them.” After-school classes at Boyo let these less fortunate children see some light in the dark.
The founder of Boyo Foundation, Lee Chia-tung, realized that many rural children are unaware of what’s going on in society and in the world. Lee hopes to broaden their perspectives through reading and activities. (photo by Kent Chuang)
Seize every opportunity
Chen Yiting was in the same Boyo class as Lin Haoxing; they were the same age, and would often compare study notes. When Chen was a student at Boyo’s Puli center, she was the one leading the way in livening up the atmosphere, but she was also one of the few who liked going to the teacher for help. Energetic and positive in nature, she values the resources and encouragement she received at Boyo, and recalls her time there vividly.
“Not you again, Chen Yiting! Please quiet down.” Supervisor Wu Wen-yen patrolled the hallways every day to make sure students followed the rules. While he looked stern on the outside, to Chen Yiting he was like a strict but caring father. Wu kept up with every student, making sure to ask them how they were doing when he saw them. More than just a supervisor, he was also a friend with whom the students could talk. With her time at Boyo many years in the past, Chen still thinks about the supervisor who was both a teacher and a friend.
Teachers at Boyo after-school classes come from diverse backgrounds, something which affected Chen in a number of ways. Her English teacher, with a head of tousled curly hair, was in a band, and taught the students more life truths than English words. “You can play if you want to, but you have to know how to pull it off. You need to be good at playing and at studying, like me.” The teacher’s words made a lasting impression on Chen, who played hard and studied hard.
After graduating from junior high school, Chen began her studies at the Affiliated Senior High School of National Chi-Nan University. She discovered that regular academic classes did not satisfy her appetite for knowledge, so she made up her mind to transfer to a vocational school to study knowledge and technical skills with practical applications. After studying business administration, she was able to conduct a sales analysis from multiple perspectives while working for a beverage shop, which resulted in her becoming shop manager at a mere 20 years of age.
She worked in Taoyuan for five years to escape her estranged family. When she got the news that her grandmother had fallen ill, Chen applied for a job transfer so she could go back to her hometown to be with Granny.
“I think I’ve come across a lot of special people. Without them, I don’t know where I would be now.” Chen is grateful to her teachers at Boyo, her previous boss at her part-time job, and her boss at the beverage shop. The wisdom and knowledge they shared with her became a force that keeps her moving forward. As a shop manager, she has come to appreciate the difficulty of running a business. She respects Lee Chia-tung for the many years of effort he has put into Boyo, ensuring that students who can’t pay tuition can have access to a free after-school program and a brighter future.
Chen Yiting has these words of encouragement for Boyo students: “There is always something to learn, whether it be from a person or a book. You must take advantage of where you are and whatever resources you have.”
Liang Chun Chia:
Love through music
By singing in a mountain valley with her Amis nanny when she was younger, Liang Chun Chia was able to develop a proper singer’s voice. She took part in all sorts of musical performances at Boyo, including an English singing competition and a corporate charity concert. One time, Lee Chia-tung was so moved by the Irish folk song “Danny Boy,” which Liang had sung, that he asked everyone to play the song at his future funeral.
A bright star on stage, Liang Chun Chia actually used to be a reserved child before coming to Boyo, often spending her days at school in silence. But upon coming to the after-school classes at Boyo, the friendly social workers and teachers got her to open up. “When I was at Boyo, I could talk all night.” Her grades also started to improve, such that she went from as low as eight points on elementary-school English tests to more than 90 points on her junior-high-school tests, and always stayed within the top 5% of the class.
Despite having left Boyo many years ago, Liang still has the same go-getter attitude towards learning. Every day after work she makes time to memorize some English words and practice speaking. A movie commentary she wrote while at Boyo also ignited in her a passion for creative writing. She now writes poems, prose, and lyrics. Outside of her day job, she is a resident singer at restaurants and has gained teaching experience as a guitar instructor.
Liang is grateful to the social workers and teachers who helped her in her studies and provided emotional support.
This year, 22-year-old Liang Chun Chia gave her first solo charity concert and donated the proceeds to Boyo. She wants economically disadvantaged children to know that education can give you hope and a different perspective, and can even help you escape poverty. “I think that my success is something they can also achieve!”
“The person who helped me the most was Lee Chia-tung. He is a very soft-hearted person.” Liang Chun Chia believes that had Lee not founded Boyo, many rural children would not have had their lives changed for the better. She always remembers how when Lee came to their English classes, he looked at the kids with genuine affection, and a constant grin on his face. It is this love which made a lasting impact on so many children, many of whom are spreading this warmth to even more people in whatever way they can.