China - Taiwan Province

Taiwan: Hope Project

At 1:47 a.m. on September 21, 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale struck central Taiwan. The quake was the most powerful in a century. It killed 2,400 people and left 50,000 homes in ruins.
Volunteers of Tzu Chi Foundation immediately provided emergency aid and built temporary communities for quake victims. As the foundation continued to give long-term support, it went to work on reconstructing the damaged land.

Steadfast resolution

When Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, undertook the task of rebuilding damaged schools, many people were daunted by the enormous costs of the project. But Master Cheng Yen knew hope of the future was in education and she remained steadfast in her resolution. One by one, Tzu Chi pledged to rebuild 50 schools near the epicenter that were damaged most heavily. These schools included large city schools of several thousand students and tiny schools in remote mountains.

Principles behind the design

Two buildings that must not fall in a disaster are the hospital and the school. The hospital must stay operational to treat the injured and the school would be the shelter for anyone needing it. With this requirement, plus environmental and humanistic considerations, the 51 unique schools were designed to the same three principles:

  • Construction with sulfate resistant cement with steel framework and reinforcement
  • Energy conservation and re-use of natural resources
  • Harmony with the surrounding environment

Architects worked closely with Tzu Chi and school staff to finalize the designs after many iterations. The resulting schools make good use of sunlight, are naturally well ventilated, and form pleasant scenes with the surroundings. The schools have rain collection systems that save rainwater for watering plants and for restrooms. Walk paths and squares are paved with bricks to allow the earth beneath to breathe.

Joint effort of the community

Residents around the schools were impressed by the quietness and cleanliness of the construction sites, many even brought snacks and meals to construction workers. Lighter-duty tasks such as paving brick paths and landscaping were also accomplished by the joint effort of Tzu Chi volunteers, community residents, even local government staff and police officers.

As of November 2002, Hope Project costs total NT$7,558,805,483, or US$217,457,005. The funds were donated by businesses, other non-profit organizations, government agencies, and millions of individuals from Taiwan and abroad.

The care and blessing of so many people are what gives these schools life. Thank you for supporting Hope Project. Your love has become a permanent part in each one of the classrooms.


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