DEVELOPING young leaders during their formative years remains an important thrust for the government of Taiwan. Now on its sixth year, the International Youth Ambassadors Exchange Program spearheaded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took 128 Taiwanese students on a 21-day experiential trip in four to five countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Carribean, Europe, Latin America, North America and West Asia.
Following the long running Chinese Youth Goodwill Missions, the exchange program aims to immerse future leaders to international cultural awareness; to provide the students a deeper understanding of global issues; and to facilitate productive discussions between the participants and different sectors of society in several nations.
This year’s batch of students was divided into eight teams, and with specific regional assignments comprising of five countries each. A total of 16 youth ambassadors made up the Asia-Pacific delegation, visiting Palau, the Philippines, Malaysia, and India from September 1 to September 21.
While on their Philippine tour, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the country took the group to a Gawad Kalinga (GK) Housing community in Parañaque City on September 6. As part of a four-day trip to the country, the activity aimed to expose the youth ambassadors to living conditions in certain parts of the Philippines.
“The youth is very important in promoting peace and in developing our nation further. At an early age, the government fully supports their holistic education, which includes exposure to different cultures and backgrounds. This enables them to learn important values such as respect, tradition and even develop critical thinking that would in turn, help the growth of Taiwan,” Ambassador for Diplomacy and International Affairs Donald Lee told The Manila Times in an exclusive interview.
TECO executive officer Eric Chen scheduled a morning tour for the delegation around the 300 homes that make up the GK Manggahan-Kawayanan compound. This was an opportunity for college and university students from Taiwan to interact with the local community and observe their living conditions firsthand. After the tour, the youth ambassadors attended a brief exchange among Ambassador Lee and GK representatives.
GK explained their advocacy to provide houses for underprivileged families through development aid. This entails low monthly payment from recipients at P600 a month, as well as 30 hours of community service.
“In visiting the local community, the students will better understand the real life situation in the Philippines. Most people in Taiwan have a lot of Filipino friends so I think this is a great way for the young generation to know more about life in this country, so they can better understand their Filipino friends. They can also use this experience in future cooperation with their Asian neighbors,” said Ambassador Lee to the The Manila Times.
Following their visit to the GK compound, the delegation headed to the Lyceum of the Philippines and several other universities where the youth ambassadors initiated dialogues with their student-counterparts.
They also visited important sites such as the Malacañang Palace and the House of Congress, the historic Manila Hotel, and the Chinese community in Binondo, Manila where they performed a cultural dance that reflected their experience in the Philippines.
“We launched the International Youth Exchange Program six years ago hoping to promote cultural exchange while providing humanitarian aid to areas in need. We do so for our young generation to know more about different countries, and more importantly, to encourage peaceful interaction amid cultural differences,” Ambassador Lee concluded.