Experiential rural education – Taipei Times

Disadvantaged rural youth of all ages achieve confidence and life expertise by means of working at 5-Way House, which has grown from a charity thrift retailer to a social enterprise with 12 totally different ventures all through the sleepy city of Fengtian

  • By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

The most occurring place in Huanlien County’s sleepy Fengtian (豐田) is an outdated Japanese thatched hut subsequent to the prepare station, now referred to as the 5-Way House (五味屋). A thrift retailer run by deprived rural youth, the title refers back to the 5 flavors of life that one can expertise right here.

Customers browse second-hand items within the entrance, whereas a bunch of native and visiting youngsters work on pricing the newly-arrived gadgets. In the again room, an teacher is educating native kids find out how to bake tarts whereas faculty volunteers assist out.

Behind the hut, different kids are processing roselle calyces that they grew themselves to make into candied sweets and different merchandise. The used clothes retailer throughout the road can be open, and on the close by used bookstore, a spatial design group from Tainan National University of the Arts is planning 5-Way House’s new house, which can partially be used to package deal the rice that the youngsters develop at the side of native farmers.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

5-Way House founder Ku Yu-Chun (顧瑜君) is within the middle of all this exercise, shifting between rooms, working with every group and coping with any issues calmly however firmly. It normally isn’t this busy, she says — normally the actions revolve across the kids studying find out how to run the shops and assist out in different areas.

The Donghwa University professor arrange the social enterprise in 2008 to present these youth confidence, communication and demanding considering expertise as there are few assets within the small city, particularly for these coming from damaged houses.

Their lack of self-worth is compounded by the widespread notion that the one option to “succeed” is to go away the countryside, which makes residents — and the education system — ignore what rural life has to supply. Instead of specializing in what Fengtian lacks, Ku hopes that 5-Way House’s packages assist them admire what they’ve.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Today, 5-Way House has expanded to 12 spots across the farming village, in search of to supply a assorted and complete rural-learning expertise.


The youngsters are additionally educated in public talking by means of sharing their tales at occasions round Taiwan, and giving excursions to guests. My information is Hsu Wen-hao (許文浩), a university freshman who has been with 5-Way House since he was within the fourth grade. He met Ku whereas his father was within the hospital, and began coming often after his father handed away.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

“I was afraid at first because it was so lively and full of people,” he says. “But gradually, I began to see this place as another home. When I see the kids today, I see myself in the past.”

Hsu and his buddy Chou Hsiang (周翔), who additionally spent just a few years at 5-Way House, seem well mannered and articulate now, however they are saying they realized find out how to be that means by means of their time there. They say that many kids who come have emotional issues and are liable to outbursts.

“Like a ticking time bomb,” Chou says.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

Hsu says that he realized to regulate his feelings and take note of how he deal with others and pay attention to his tone when chatting with others.

“I was a mischievous kid,” he says.

Chou says he was dragged to 5-Way House by his grandmother within the fifth grade, as he was not doing nicely academically and often stepping into hassle.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times

“This place gives kids a good foundation,” he says. “It’s okay if they have a brash attitude when they come, at least they won’t get worse here. I learned how to work properly and how to respect others.”

Hsu brings me to one of many shops, which is stuffed wall-to-wall with all kinds of stuffed toys. This is 5-Way House’s newest enterprise, opened final 12 months with the assistance of Claire Wang (王婉諭), the mom of the 4-12 months-outdated “Little Light Bulb” who was tragically killed in 2016 in a random assault. Plushies and different toys amassed on the homicide website in reminiscence of the sufferer, and Wang determined to present 206 of them to 5-Way House.

With the assistance of development employees and designers, the children had been tasked with arranging and establishing the brand new house. Again, they are saying the largest problem was studying to cooperate — there have been many mood tantrums, arguments and throwing of things. Eventually, nevertheless, they pull by means of.

Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times


The group of visiting teenagers are from an experimental junior highschool in rural Yunlin County, and serving to out right here is a part of their subject journey to Hualien. Visiting college students typically come from extra privileged backgrounds, Ku says, and it’s helpful to have the 2 teams work together. They additionally host guests or volunteers from different nations, which helps join the youth to the surface world.

“The kids are tasked with bringing the foreign visitors around,” Ku says. “Unlike in a school, there’s no itinerary, they don’t need to know English, they just figure it out on their own. Often they’re gone for a whole day. It gives them confidence. They don’t need to be good at English before they can make foreign friends.”

This is a part of 5-Way House’s more moderen tourism enterprise. Ku hopes that guests don’t simply come to devour or be served, however to assist out, be taught and get to know the group.

The college students keep at 5-Way House’s guesthouse, which doesn’t serve breakfast, as a substitute encouraging the visiting college students to exit and work together with native breakfast outlets. If they keep for longer, 5-Way House can organize for a neighborhood to come back cook dinner for them and speak about native produce and meals customs, and even train them find out how to cook dinner.

“The laborer becomes the teacher in this case, and they feel appreciated more. It’s not just a transaction, but we’re building connections between people,” Ku says.

Most of the households right here don’t have the means to ship their kids overseas, however 17-12 months-outdated A-Kuo (阿國), who has delicate developmental disabilities, has been to Japan thrice. Most kids get retailer credit score for his or her time working, however they will additionally signal as much as do additional work with a view to be part of the worldwide trade packages that 5-Way House has with different teams, comparable to Tenrikyo Church in Japan.

The 5-day trade to Japan is free, however A-Kuo nonetheless has to earn cash to sightsee for just a few days earlier than and after this system, in addition to airfare. At first, his father was capable of put in half of the cash, however later he may not afford to. Since the occasions are time delicate, they will journey first and pay again the cash later.

“Even if they can just put in NT$100, we hope that the parents are involved,” Ku says. “We don’t want to make them welfare dependent.”

Besides all these packages, Ku says in addition they do social work behind the scenes with the youngsters’s households. People filter of the hut as night time falls, however Ku and a few of the workers are nonetheless on the brink of take care of a child who ran away from dwelling.

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