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'Volunteer grandkids' assist New Year's travelers

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Eighty junior high school students volunteered to carry luggage for elderly passengers taking the train home for Chinese New Year celebrations at Taipei Main Station, yesterday.

The volunteers from Hong Dao Junior High School were dubbed “volunteer grandkids,” and dedicated their day to helping passengers carry the heavy baggage commonly seen during the mad rush home before Chinese New Year arrives. Escalators are scarce in many train stations, making it difficult for passengers to reach their platforms with their burdens.

Many passengers remarked that the students' actions “were heartwarming” and “more considerate than my own grandchildren's.”

The students also came across many overseas Taiwanese who returned to Taiwan for Chinese New Year. Seventy-year-old Lin Chih-shih had three pieces of baggage between him and his wife, both of whom were worrying about how to carry their heavy load onto the train. Lin praised the students who helped the couple carry their baggage to their seats, saying “Who would have thought these volunteer grandkids could be even more thoughtful than my own.”

Ho Yu-mei, a Taiwanese who lives in Malaysia, stated that she had been running around awkwardly in the train station with her heavy bags but was rescued from her state of panic by the “volunteer grandkids,” one of whom was Indonesian. Ho added that she bonded well with the Indonesian student, and treated her to a snack on the train.

“It's not easy, being a volunteer grandchild,” said two students surnamed Liao and Chu. At first, the students held up signs advertising the services they were offering, but to no avail, said one of the volunteers. Instead of continuing the wait for passengers to come to them, the students then formed groups and decided to take the initiative in assisting elderly, pregnant and disabled or passengers with large pieces of luggage passing by.

Fang Shan-cheng, the school's director of student affairs, noted that the 80 volunteers had signed up almost immediately when the school had asked for volunteers on its website. “This is a highly educational activity; many students had fulfilled their required volunteer hours already, yet they signed up anyway. I find this very touching,” said Fang.

The “volunteer grandkids” program will be carried out by volunteer students in different train stations until Chinese New Year's Eve.

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