Wang Leehom brings hope back from Sierra Leone
By Dimitri Bruyas, The China Post
June 7, 2009, 11:52 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- When a disaster strikes, the "30 Hour Famine" program always responds swiftly and brings urgently needed food and supplies to children and families faced with a crisis.
Established by Christian relief organization World Vision, the program—aimed at raising funds and awareness of world hunger issues among the public through a voluntary hunger strike—will celebrates its 20th anniversary in Taiwan this August.
For this occasion, World Vision Taiwan recently invited acclaimed singer Wang Leehom — one of the most inspiring Asian Americans of all time according to the Goldsea Asian American Daily, and a longtime ambassador for the charity — to visit the Republic of Sierra Leone in West Africa and witness the improvement Taiwan's help had brought to people's livelihoods there.
So far this has been the farthest country from Taiwan he has ever been to. Wang went to a very remote district named Kono, where the movie "Blood Diamond" was shot.
Although his first impression of the country was based squarely on the movie — Sierra Leone is the lowest ranked country on the Human Development Index and the seventh lowest on the Human Poverty Index in the world, the pop star recalled that his view of the country has been totally changed after meeting the Sierra Leoneans.
It took him three days and two nights to reach the field, where he witnessed first hand signs of poverty just by looking at the people's homes, which are all made of mud and have no water or electricity.
"The people have been through very unusual experiences. Yet before I left, I saw hope," he told The China Post two days after returning from his trek to the tiny African nation.
Though Sierra Leone is still in a delicate situation, he pointed out that seven years after the civil war ended, people living in the program areas of World Vision show no hatred.
"The country became extremely underdeveloped because of war, but for those who survived the war, they are looking ahead in solidarity, regardless of the terrible things the rebels have done," Wang noted.
World Vision's work in Sierra Leone began in 1996 bringing immediate relief to those affected by civil war, especially children and amputees. In 2007, the relief organization launched Area Development Programs (ADPs) in Gorama and Gbane, supported by child sponsors in Taiwan.
"I've observed many World Vision programs, such as food-for-work, school feeding, child sponsorship, and 30 Hour Famine supported activities," he went on. "I was very proud to see thousands of children being sponsored by Taiwanese donors. People from a place so far away called Taiwan care for them!"