The TCU Department of Child Development and Family Studies had been collaborating with Xinshe Elementary School, Fengbin, Hualien, on a project named “A New Perspective – Children’s Lalaban”, an ongoing photographic documentary of Xinshe. The results were exhibited on Nov. 13 at Kebalan Cultural Exhibition Center. The wife of the Mayor of Hualien County Hsu Chen-Wei, Xinshe Elementary Principal Yu Yen-Chung, TCU Prof. Chang Ying-Peng, local elders and students’ family all gathered together to attend the occasion.
A team of seven students from the Department of Child Development and Family Studies, led by Chang Li-Fen, began their project by teaching the students of Xinshe Elementary how to use a camera, and how to use photographs to document their hometown. The cameras, 15 of them, were donated by the public.
The power of love is incredible,” said Hsu, the Mayor’s Wife. “TCU volunteers teach the children to document their hometown through a lens, to approach their tribes and their elders, with cameras donated by the public. Is it not amazing?”
The children of Xineshe Elementary demonstrated their ancient tribal spirits with powerful dance moves and traditional Kebalan wears. In a blink of an eye, they transformed into reporters, introducing their photographic work to the audience.
“I am glad that the project brought our children closer to their root, to the tribal culture they are born into. The families and the elders are particularly fond of the project when they see the tribal spirit passing down to the younger generation. I am thankful to the students of Tzu Chi University for traveling so far to teach our children to use a camera and to document our community.” Said Principal Yu.
The children’s work include the sceneries that you will see only if you walk deep into the community. They have illustrated a Xinshe we have never seen before. The adults can relearn the community they are so familiar with through the eyes of the children.” Said TCU student Wang Chieh-Yu.
Xinshe is beautiful. I hope that everyone has a chance to visit Xinshe.” Said Lin Chun-Min, a six grader of Xinshe Elementary. First time using a camera, first time taking photos, he was thrilled to show his work to the audience, and grateful to the TCU students who taught him all that he knew.
In addition to operating a camera, the students of TCU spent these two months guiding the children on an in-depth engagement of their lives. These children then divided into teams, walked deep into the various tribes of Xinshe community, both as a guide and as a reporter, to understand their history and culture, and to photograph its beauty.
Xinshe community current has approximately 800 residents. Malaloong and Dipit, two tribes in Xinshe, hold about 70% of the total population, and are occupied primarily by the Amiss. Paterungan, on the other hand, holds 25% of the total population, and is occupied primarily by the Kebalan. Weaving with banana stem fiber is a craft unique to the Kebalan, and a vital cultural asset to Taiwan. The culture of Kebalan has always been a distinguished characteristic of Xinshe, but only recently did the locals became aware of its importance. Xinshe Elementary are holding tribal language courses, with the hope that the children can grow closer to their roots.
“My children are so happy when they receive the cameras,” said Kung Li-Yun, a mother of two. “They learned to operate a camera, and to photograph topics that fascinate them. It is a tremendous help to the promotion and documentation of local culture.”
This is a class without credit hours,” said Chang Li-Fen, a teacher in the Department of Child Development and Family Studies. Xinshe was far from the campus, Chang pointed out, and yet the students are willing to spend their time, traveling back and forth, to plan activities in Xinshe, and to communicate with the schools and community leaders.
“This is an invaluable social lecture for our university students,” said Chang. “We are grateful to Xinshe Elementary for offering us a chance to service the community, and to mature from the experience.”