Walnut Grove students return from Taiwan inspired

Taiwan Consulate
Taiwan Consulate's Michael Tseng (left to right) helped facilitate a trip to Taiwan for a humanitarian conference for four Walnut Grove Secondary students, Maria-Camila Ponce, Margaret Chen, Liam Foley and Erika Holmes, They met with Langley MP Mark Warawa on Thursday. The four took to the streets of Taipei holding the banner and asking residents to donate to Walk for Water for Swaziland.
— image credit: Monique Tamminga/Langley Times

It was “a trip of a lifetime” for four Walnut Grove Secondary students who flew across the world last month to change the world. Now they’ve returned to Langley inspired.

Grade 12 students Erika Holmes, Liam Foley, Margaret Chen and Maria-Camila Ponce along with their teacher Julia Bryant-Taneda flew to Taiwan for the International Youth Humanitarian conference “Change the World” from Oct 24-30.

The conference was frontloaded with academics and then the Langley teens hit the streets, walking through Changhua with students from other countries, holding a banner that said “Walking for Water” and asking strangers to donate to drilling wells for water in Swaziland, said Bryant-Taneda. The teens, their parents and members of the Taiwan Consulate who helped facilitate the exchange met at Langley MP Mark Warawa’s office last week (Nov. 15).

Change the World is an academic conference with students preparing essays and biographies and then presenting their ideas in speech format while in Taiwan. Students from Taiwan, Japan, USA, and Canada discuss their ideas about local and global service.

After the academic process, students and teachers present the idea of changing the world through service to elementary and secondary schools and businesses there.

Last year, their international fundraising efforts did manage to dig one well in Swaziland, said Bryant-Taneda. This is her fifth year organizing and taking the WGSS students to the conference.

“Teenagers from several different countries come together to fundraise for an African nation. It’s powerful because here I see a bunch of teenagers really getting excited about humanitarian work.

“It was so humid but these kids pushed on and I could see there was a real passion there. The flame was lit,” she said.

Foyer said people would stop in their taxis or on their scooters on the way to or from work and open up their wallets or purses and give money.

“It’s not typical to fundraise there,” said Bryant-Taneda. But the reception they received was amazing, said Holmes.

Grade 10 Taiwanese students that came along with the group would explain what the “Canadians” were doing and the people were really receptive, said Foyer.

“It was interesting to talk to all these students from different cultures; it made me realize how much there is to see and do, and how many connections I can make as I volunteer,” said Chen in an essay about her experience in Taiwan. She was born in Taiwan but raised in Canada.

Each of the students did a homestay and wrote in their essays that the homestay parents and children went out of their way to be caring and make them feel at home.

The four said that Taiwan is very different from Langley. They tried everything from fish eyeballs to stinky tofu.

Chosen because of the volunteer work they do at home, the four students said they are inspired to do even more now, seeing the change they can make across the world. Next year, the plan is to hold a Walk for Water fundraising effort on Langley streets.

“I saw that together we can accomplish anything. I want to help the world,” said Ponce.

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