In an ongoing attempt to eliminate the digital divide between urbanity and rurality, the Ministry of Education (MOE) encourages universities to assemble volunteers familiar with information technology to travel to rural regions, enhance the locals’ digital application capabilities, and to assist in the development and marketing of regional specialties.
Tzu Chi University IT volunteer team began working with Fuyuan Elementary since June this year. By integrating food & agricultural education with student reporter program, they enticed the students to participate in the sewing and harvesting of sweet potatoes, and the manufacturing of local delicacies – Konga buns. The students then deliver the buns to the community elderly, and as a student reporter, documented in images and writings the life stories of these grandmas and grandpas.
These students, as they participated in the food & agricultural education, were trained by the TCU IT volunteers as reporters, with lessons from video composition to writing an interview. Since the project launched, a dozen of student in Fuyuan Elementary underwent the training program. To bring these students closer to their root, TCU IT volunteers invited Fuyuan Community Development Association Instructor Chung Jui-Teng to speak on the history of the community and the origin of the konga buns.
Konga, an Amiss word for sweet potato, is the main crop of Fuyuan. The sandy soil here is particularly suited for the cultivation of sweet potatoes. The harvest from the soil was always sizable and sweet, and not before long, sweet potatoes became the main crop of every household. It soon gave rise to a variety of handmade delicacies, like sweet potato buns, sweet potato steamed bread, and sweet potato balls. The students brought the tablets provided by the volunteers and documented the instructor’s introduction, as well as the procedures of hand-making konga buns. Some of the students took the opportunity to ask the volunteers on how to take good photos.
These locally born students are no strangers to konga buns, but to join its making was a first time. From sewing sweet potatoes to digging them up, and finally to making them into bread, the experience was phenomenal to them. Some even added a little creativity of their own and made splendid buns from another local crop – pineapples!
After a day’s hard work, the students brought their handmade steamy buns to the community elderly. “I have learnt how to make steam bread and the history of konga buns, but I am more eager to watch grandpa and grandma eating what I have made,” said Li Chen-Yang, a sixth grader in Fuyang Elementary. As one grandma received the buns, she was so ecstatic that she began to share her stories, stories that were soon documented by these student reporters as part of the community history. “From sewing the sweet potatoes, to digging them up, and to make them into buns, I begin to understand how my dad feels when he works in the rice field,” said Chiang Ting-Hsueh, a third grader in Fuyang Elementary.
This is a session of life education, said Director Ho Yun-Chi. As she pointed out, the goal of the IT volunteer team is that, by teaching these children how to utilize computers and internet, and encouraging them to learn about their community culture and interact with their elderly, they will eventually fall in love with their roots more than ever. From this semester to the next, the IT volunteer team will visit Fuyuan Elementary on monthly basis, teaching the local students to document their community, to plan a community tour, and ultimately, to introduce their hometown to the world.
Photo: Li Yun-Ting
Text: Teng Ching-Yun
Translation: Fang Kai-Ping