Many Vietnamese among foreign migrants and students yesterday launched a program that gives free food to homeless people to thank Taiwan for its successful efforts at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The Students Helping Initiative Program (SHIP) — about 20 Vietnamese students, as well as new immigrants and their children — and parishioners of Saint Christopher’s Church in Taipei handed out more than 100 chicken drumstick mealboxes to homeless people at Taipei Railway Station, the city’s main transport hub.
The people were happy to receive food on a Saturday — for many, it was their first meal of the day — and eagerly opened the packed lunch as soon as it was placed in their hands, or on their makeshift bed of cardboard and newspapers.
“Thank you very much,” a man in his 60s said. “I have been waiting the whole day for this meal.”
The program reflects the gratitude that migrants and international students feel toward 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.
“This program shows that international students appreciate Taiwan — and that they are not only here to study, but can also assist the local community,” Thiet said.
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 virus has helped him focus on his studies.
“However, the situation in Vietnam is not so great recently and I have been worrying about my hometown,” Nguyen said.
The program is to continue, with free meals given out on the first Saturday of each month at locations in northern Taiwan.
The goal is to help people who are homeless, elderly people and children with disabilities, Thiet said, adding that food would also be available at the church for international students.
“We order cooked food from restaurants, but we are exploring ways to have the students help make the food. That way, they could feel more directly involved in helping people,” Thiet added.
Built by Americans, Saint Christopher’s Church opened in July 1958 to hold religious services for US troops and allied forces in Taiwan.
Over the past 62 years, the church has become a place of worship for people of all walks of life, and it plays an important role in the lives of immigrants and migrant workers in Taiwan.