It all started with a wedding photographer named Aben. Tired of his job, Aben decided to travel around Taiwan on foot in search of places and scenery which he could take a photograph of that would move people. He wanted to show people how he felt about Taiwan. His mentor had told him that pictures should include three important aspects. Beauty, natural and it should move people.
During his travels Aben stayed and helped out in hospitals, nursery homes and even spent some time in a graveyard which made him think. How much time do I have left? What is important in life?
He eventually reached the city of Xuhai and stopped at an afterschool daycare where the owner had been working for over 20 years. He asked why the owner wanted to do the same work for over 20 years. To which the owner replied “stay here for a week and you will know”. Aben ended up staying for a whole year.
Spending so much time with the children made him see some important aspects.
- Kids are easily motivated for life
- They live in the moment
- They easily express their real self
- They do not need a lot to be happy
This experience made him reflect on his own life. What do I need to be truely happy?
Continuing his adventure he stopped in the next village only 10 kilometres away from Xuhai. He saw the children in the village weren’t living the childhood life they should and then he knew what his purpose in life was.
I realised I did not want to be the person taking a picture of something or someone that moves or changes people. I wanted to be the one in the picture, making the change.
He dedicates his life to the children of the village. They come here every day between 7 and 9 to experience childhood. And now Countryside Summer Life has grown into a community of volunteers from all over Taiwan taking care of the children.
What I the aim of this community?
First and foremost to create a place where children can experience a real childhood. The children in the village do not grow up like they should. They are forced to work for their parents company, they are abused or the parents are always drunk. Some of them are brought up by a single parent and some by their grandparents. The children don’t see or experience anything else in life and don’t know anything about life outside of the village.
Here in Countryside Summer Life the children are in a social environment and get to play with other kids. They get to be creative and do handicrafts or play music. Aben created a band and takes the children to perform in big cities in Taiwan. This way they experience life outside of the village.
Be sure to check out the video of one of their tours which the kids planned all by themselves!
The volunteers come from all over Taiwan whenever they have the chance. Most of which came here for the first time by coincidence while travelling not knowing the place at all.
Aben hopes the experiences make the volunteers reflect on their own lives like Aben did after spending a year in Xuhai. He hopes the kids will teach the volunteers about happines and being playful in life. Living in the moment, enjoying and being grateful for each new day. Not to seek happines in materialism but in being connected with other people.
The volunteers also take care of Countryside Summer Life. Cleaning, maintaining, growing vegetables in a small farm or building a hen house. There is no gass so they collect wood every couple of days to cook above an open fire and to heat up the water for a hot shower every night. This brings them back to basic and teaches them to appreciate the luxuries they have at home.
Growing awareness by luck and word of mouth
They not actively go out and ask for donations, nor do they actively market the place to increase awareness. Most awareness is created by travellers stopping by, volunteers that bring friends and word of mouth.
Countryside Summer Life has campsite and is great for backpackers and travellers looking for a unique place to stay. Though they will never go commercial as they want the focus to be purely on the kids but be sure to drop by if you are travelling around Taiwan.
or you can check the community website: http://gangzai168.blogspot.tw/?m=1