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September 23, 2017

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Volunteer brightens Burkina Faso's future

By Joseph Yeh--You have probably seen the young lady before on television and in newspapers during President Ma Ying-jeou's state visit to Africa this April.

She is Jono Chen (陳箬娜), an interpreter to Taiwan's technical mission to the country's African ally Burkina Faso.

Dubbed a look-alike of Taiwanese model Hannah Quinlivan (昆凌), the girlfriend of mega Mandopop star Jay Chou (周杰倫), Chen was described by Taiwan media as one of the highlights of Ma's a 12-day state visit that took him to Burkina Faso and two of Taiwan's other allies in Africa — The Gambia and Swaziland.

Though she tried her best to keep a low profile, Chen immediately caught the media's attention with her dazzling appearance during the president's inspection tour of a Taiwan-sponsored vocational school in the Burkina Faso town of Ziniare.

Chen serves as an interpreter for French-speaking Burkinabe students and Taiwanese technicians at the Centre de Formation Professionnelle de Reference de Ziniare (Ziniare Professional Training Center of Reference).

The 25-year-old, born to a Belgian father and Taiwanese mother, graduated from a fashion design university in France in 2009.

After working for two years in Taiwan's fashion industry, Chen decided earlier this year to join a 10-month Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) project in Africa as a volunteer interpreter.

In a recent email interview with The China Post, Chen explained why she chose the volunteer project, as part of which she only receives a small stipend, when she could have stayed in Taiwan's much more comfortable and glamorous fashion business.

Vocational School Project a Wellspring of Hope: Chen

"I was deeply touched the first time I heard of the Burkina Faso project," Chen said.

Calling the vocational school in Africa a wellspring of hope for youths in the West African country, Chen said she was eager to take part in it so that the program can lead many young Africans to a brighter future in a continent often plagued by poverty and hunger.

Therefore, instead of flying to the United Kingdom as part of a bilateral Youth Mobility Scheme that allows Taiwanese youths to take working holidays for as long as two years, Chen decided to sign a contract with the technical mission, leaving her home in Taiwan for the far-away continent.

"I think I will have another chance to visit the UK sometime later in my life, but the rare experience to serve as an interpreter in Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Arriving in Burkina Faso in March, the young Taiwanese-Belgian immediately found herself busy as a translator and interpreter, serving as a bridge between Taiwanese technicians and local students.

The facility was established in December 2010 as a key part of a seven-year cooperation program between the two nations.

Taiwan provides technical assistance to the center to help train people as electricians and to teach skills in the fields of electrical and mechanical engineering, auto and motorcycle repair and maintenance, construction, precision machinery, baking and communications teaching.

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