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May 9, 2013

Taiwanese Student Receives International Volunteering Award

Submitted by Taiwan Homeschool Advocates

Hui Jie (Rebecca) Chen, 15, of Yilan, Taiwan, a home-schooled student, was selected from 6,500 entries in Taiwan as the Middle School National Honoree in the 2013 Spirit of Community Awards program. Rebecca was officially honored at a gala award ceremony and dinner reception at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on Sunday, May 5th. She also attended a national award luncheon on Monday, May 6th at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce near the White House with 102 U.S. honorees including two home-schooled students, Emily Fabre from Massachusetts and Emma McDaniel from South Carolina. Rebecca was officially received at the Taiwanese Embassy by the Representative of Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States on Tuesday, May 7th.

Rebecca has been an active volunteer for much of her life, and has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to helping people living in poverty. Rebecca was born in Belize. She is the oldest of four children. Her parents are ministers at a Presbyterian church in rural Taiwan.

Rebecca and her parents have been visiting and helping seniors and children in need since she was a young child. She has participated in street fundraising and fundraising concert planning every summer since she was nine years old, and has raised more than $10,000 for the poor over the past six years. When Rebecca was younger, she was even consulted by high school students who wanted her assistance with their “30 Hour Famine” event to help the poor.

Last year, after seeing a news report about famine in East Africa, Rebecca planned a fundraising concert by herself and invited several famous bands to perform. She raised $1,900 in two hours, and donated nearly 5,000 pounds of rice to East Africa. Rebecca has been invited to give talks around Taiwan to tell her story and share how to use one’s strengths and abilities to help the poor. Rebecca’s motto, from the Bible, is “let no one despise your youth,” and she shares the phrase to encourage others to believe that no one is too small for good, and one person can make a difference. Rebecca is now planning a big concert in Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei to raise money for starving children in West Africa. During Rebecca’s acceptance speech, she noted:

I deeply believe it is not the world that has too many bad people, but rather the good ones are doing too little. The Bible said it is a bigger blessing to give than to receive. While I have never thought what I could gain from volunteering, I often receive more than I contribute. Whether it’s a pat on the back or just a smile, they are all valuable experiences money cannot buy.

My motto is “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

I often hear people telling me about their grand ideas. When I ask them how they are going to realize their ideas, they often tell me, “Oh, wait until I first finish this or have that first.”

All of us have dreams and ambitions. The difference is some of us only dream about the dreams, but others dare to realize their ambitions. What are your dreams? Do you want to make your dream come true now or wait until you pass the examinations, enter a good school, get a stable job, save enough money, and only then try to realize your dream?

I believe that I will not get another chance to do many things if I don’t do them now. I want to emphasize I am no different than others. I just don’t want to wait and would rather try now. There are too many reasons to let us get away with not doing something now. Let’s not become our own regrets.

Rebecca’s selection for the Spirit of Community Awards has stirred up significant media attention in Taiwan and created new interests in homeschooling. Homeschooling has been a legal form of education in Taiwan since 1999. In 2012, 1,750 out of 3 million students in Taiwan between age 6 and 17 are homeschooled. Taiwan is the only East Asian country with legal protection for parents to homeschool their children. Tim Chen, the organizer of Taiwan Homeschool Advocates, said, “Through her recognition as one of the top youth volunteers in the world, Rebecca has dismissed the homeschool stereotypes as socially challenged and friendless. Her story has helped to raise the awareness of homeschooling among the general public.”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. The program was created in 1995 by Prudential in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to honor middle level and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state, and national level. Following the success of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in the United States, the program was introduced in Japan in 1997, South Korea in 1999, Taiwan in 2000, Ireland in 2006, and India in 2010.

Taiwan Homeschool Advocates is a national homeschooling support group.

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Tawain page.