| Posted: Sunday, Aug 12, 2012 06:00 am
St. Albert played host to a tour group from Taiwan Friday, showing them the sights and giving them some behind-the-scenes looks at how volunteers work to improve the lives of seniors across the city.
The nine representatives came because of their involvement with the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE), a California-based international non-governmental organization with strong ties to the United Nations. Its sole aim is to promote volunteerism across countries and across cultures.
They come from different career paths with some industry professionals in nursing and social work, while other members are university students from diverse fields like political science, languages, and finance. They come from different walks of life but the one thing that connects them all is their desire to improve life for the elderly.
Pat Phelan was one of the enthusiastic tour guides from the Community Information and Volunteer Centre (CIVC). The director of volunteer centre services said that the group was looking to explore methods that they can develop opportunities for volunteers to help seniors in their country. A lot of their lessons here were learned hands-on.
“They’re here to learn by serving. They’re here to get real-life volunteer experiences in Alberta,” she stated. “I really think they’re coming to our centre because of the reputation that the CIVC has. They know that when they come here that they’re going to have a good experience. I think that’s why St. Albert was chosen.”
The visit mimics another recent tour two years ago when a group from Hokkaido, Japan toured Edmonton and St. Albert to learn about government and cultural organizations.
The Taiwanese IAVE group has been in Alberta since July 23, staying primarily at the nurses’ residence at Grant MacEwan University. Under the supervision of Stan Fisher, the president of the St. Michael’s Health Group in Edmonton, the group has volunteered at the Heritage Festival, visited Fort Edmonton and the volunteer centre in Sherwood Park.
While in town, they took in some of the sights of Rock’n August, visiting heritage sites like the Father Lacombe Chapel and Little White School. They saw inside the Youville Home and helped out at the Aurora Place build site for Habitat for Humanity.
Taiwan and Canada are going through a similar demographic experience. The population in Taiwan is getting older, and Taiwanese culture prefers that the elderly live with their grown and usually married children. Because of the economy, many young couples are finding that both partners have to take work, leaving no one at home to tend to the aged parent.
Julie Shen is the chief of the Kaohsiung City Volunteer Association and the team leader for this tour, dubbed the IAVE Taiwan 2012 Journey of Dreams.
She said that the group has been very pleased with how everything has gone so far, and they haven’t even made it to Jasper yet.
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of everyone. Because they have shared their partnerships and their fellowships, we are able to see a lot of places and we’ve been warmly welcomed by many organizations,” she recapped. “It’s been awesome!”