As an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team we are in Taiwan to help the county of Pingtung address important energy challenges for the county and the future well-being of its citizens. In addition to the project itself, one of the more enjoyable parts of the Smarter Cities Challenge project is the work we as IBMers get to do in the local communities with schools and with kids.
The goal of these interactions is to give back locally to the community and to thank them for their kind hospitality towards IBM. We focused this trip on teaching Taiwanese kids English words or phrases, teaching them how to use English when interacting in everyday situations (such as going to a convenience store), and teaching them songs or topics that integrate with their school lesson plans. The amazing thing, while we were here to help teach them, is just how much we learned in the process about the local traditions and culture, much of which has been passed down orally over many generations. We simply had a great time teaching these kids and learning from them.
These kids, working with their teachers and principals, invested many days preparing for the IBM team, rehearsing their programs and delivering flawlessly for us. In some cases they worked 3-4 days and over weekends on their preparation. In one case, the students from Taiwu were actually competitive in the US Grammy process for one of their performances. We were all very impressed.
Moneshia wrote in one of our earlier blogs about our time in Taiwu (pictured above) with that community. Taiwu is an aboriginal village of the Paiwanese culture, rebuilt after Typhoon Morakot. She described in the blog the spiritual nature of our visit, the passion of the Principal at the school and the things we did with the kids on that visit. It was a wonderful time!
Also early in our visit to Pingtung County we had the pleasure of seeing another traditional dance and that was the Dragon Dance from the kids at Yuh-Kang Elementary School. Fantastic precision from these kids and the IBM team did a little dance of its own!
IBM team – note the difference in fine motor skills and coordination between the two!
The final day of community service, a full day, was spent in Kenting located on the southern tip of Taiwan. Kenting is a beautiful part of Pingtung County, home to the Maanshan nuclear plant which we visited as part of our project and the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium. The aquarium had many features, exhibits and fish in common with my hometown Georgia Aquarium. A great facility here in Taiwan that many people may not know about because of its location, but a lot of credit is owed to Dr. Fan and his team for their work maintaining a world class aquarium for many years.
Sculpture outside aquarium
View of Kenting Coast from behind aquarium
Our time in Kenting was short but we had the chance to spend a full day with two groups of kids. First, at Kenting Elementary School we divided up into 5 groups with each IBM Executive teaching a classroom of kids of varying ages songs such as Farmer in the Dell and asking each other questions in English and Mandarin / Taiwanese. We talked about families, brothers, sisters and other normal topics. The kids were very inquisitive and what you learn is that kids are the same all around the world.
The school also has what they call an English Village on one floor of the school where the kids learn how to buy food at a 7-11 convenience store (very big chain in Taiwan), check in at an airport and other everyday activities. I think the kids very much enjoyed the interaction and enjoyed showing how much they know about English and the world they live in.
In the afternoon we spent time in Hengchun village with a school teaching the ancient musical art of the Moon Lute. There is a giant sculpture of the moon lute as you enter the village and many of the kids grow up learning it.
We spent time with the kids hearing their performances. Their performances were phenomenal; very rhythmic with wonderful emotion and with a variety of instruments including the moon lute. Another school with a very passionate Headmaster and strong teachers that loved their kids and their craft.
The Headmaster used some creativity to bring the IBM team and kids together by creating a competition where each of the 5 IBM executives broke into groups with the kids and their teacher, taught the kids a song and then presented the song in front of the group. All the groups were high achievers, bringing creative motion and “interpretation” to their songs.
These events were all wonderful and could not have been made possible without the wonderful leadership of our Community Service Coordinator Anny Tseng and a big help from our Corporate Citizenship Advisor Lisa Chen and our IBM Taiwan volunteers. Anny did a wonderful job coordinating all of the events, developing a great relationship with the Principals and schools, and ensuring the IBM team had everything they needed to succeed with these kids. Thanks Anny!
In the end it was the least we could do as an IBM team to show our commitment to a country and county that has treated us very well over our three weeks. We will all have life long lasting memories of these communities and kids.