A week before Chinese New Year, Huang Wei Fang’s cousin visited her coffee shop in Hualien, Taiwan, with her children. They were immediately drawn to a bread-shaped coin bank and some red envelopes on the counter.
“Do you want to donate your money to those disadvantaged kids in need of your help?” the mother asked her children. “See how lucky you are!”
The envelopes were part of a campaign launched by World Vision Taiwan, which aims to support Taiwanese children in need. During Chinese New Year, young people are excited to receive red envelopes containing money from adults, who write short blessings on the front.
World Vision Taiwan’s campaign encouraged donors to raise funds with four envelopes with different blessings — student grants, health subsidies, a living allowance or a training allowance.
The coin bank is a symbol of the 30-hour famine in Taiwan, another World Vision campaign. Through both efforts, people fundraise for kids from disadvantaged families or communities.
Huang values both causes and raised money for World Vision Taiwan this year at her café, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.
“Many of my friends and customers took the bread-shaped coin banks home because their kids think they are cute,” she said in a Zoom interview. “They took the opportunity to educate their kids that their small efforts will mean a lot to others.”
It was her first time taking part in World Vision Taiwan’s red pocket campaign, which is now in its fourth year. Huang, 38, was successful in raising about 30 red envelopes — more than other store owners in Hualien, a coastal city in eastern Taiwan.
She felt a particularly strong need to participate this year because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. She used to live near a charity kitchen that prepared lunches for seniors and homeless people and watched them gather for meals.
Photos courtesy of World Vision Taiwan
Tourism-based cities such as Hualien experienced a business slump. Since fewer foreign travellers visited Taiwan because of the pandemic, layoffs caused low-income workers to lose their jobs or to be offered unpaid leave by their employers. For example, according to Yahoo News, up to 45 hotels in Hualien had applied a relief package for their workers to have NT$18,920 in monthly subsidies (about C$833.60) during their unpaid leave period.
“Some hotel housekeeping staff were laid off. They were mostly parents or kids from disadvantaged families,” said Wei Jung Wang, the head of the communication department at World Vision Taiwan.
Some experts, however, fear such online fundraising campaigns can lead to “charity slacktivism,” meaning people believe their online likes and shares are enough to help a cause without taking an active role in solving the problem.
“Charity slacktivism is both a chance and a threat to charities because some people who never participate in the cause might feel [it’s] easy to start contributing by [giving] some clicks away,” said sociology Prof. Ming-Sho Ho at National Taiwan University. “However, some people who are willing to contribute more are less involved in the cause.”
Watch: Huang, World Vision Taiwan and ‘charity slacktivism‘
Huang and World Vision Taiwan don’t share those concerns.
“Online comments and reposts really help us reach out to people a lot,” said Yun Ju Lin, the project planner of World Vision Taiwan. “We spent NT$2,000 (about C$88.50) every month on each kid, but many young people are generous and still willing to donate for them.”
The red envelope campaign offered Huang, her family and friends a way to feel involved, which encourages Huang to join it again next year. They all chose to contribute to health subsidies.
“We really hope they will have a full stomach every day,” she said.
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