Community Engagement 👬

 

(1) National Chi Nan University and the 921 Earthquake

On September 21, 1999, at 1:47 a.m., the devastating Chi-Chi earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck. The university, located on the outskirts of the Puli Basin, suffered significant damage to its buildings and required extensive reconstruction. September 22 happened to be the first day of the academic year for the 88th school year, and to ensure students' rights to education, the entire university temporarily relocated to other institutions such as National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Normal University, and National Chengchi University. Six months later, on March 8, 2000, the university returned to its Puli campus for classes.

The town of Puli, where National Chi Nan University is located, was severely affected by the earthquake. The entrance slope of the university collapsed, and many non-structural and some structural elements of the buildings were damaged. Students and faculty experienced the hardships of no water, no electricity, ruptured pipelines, and interrupted communication, which is an experience that current students find hard to imagine. Following the earthquake, the university conducted slope stabilization and structural reinforcement. The steel structure of the comprehensive teaching building, intentionally painted in Turkish blue, serves as a commemoration of this historical event and offers a glimpse into the earthquake disaster of that time.

 

(2) Urban Environmental Movement

In 2013, the Shui Sha Lian Center for Humanities Innovation and Social Practices at National Chi Nan University, in collaboration with public and private organizations in Puli, established the "Puli Research Association" to address the concerns of the local community. A survey conducted by the association revealed that the people of Puli were most concerned about "environmental issues."

In terms of environmental improvement, in 2014, the Shui Sha Lian Center for Humanities and Social Sciences collaborated with the 18°C Chocolate Factory to promote the Puli Environmental Improvement Movement. A total of 19 neighborhoods and community development associations, as well as 5 junior high and elementary schools, participated in the initiative, demonstrating a high level of grassroots participation.

Regarding air pollution, in 2014, the Shui Sha Lian Center for Humanities and Social Sciences not only participated in the Puli PM2.5 Air Pollution Reduction and Self-Help Association activities but also collaborated with Professor Dai Rong-Fu from the Department of Information Management to develop "Air Pollution Micro Sensors" and a "Real-time Air Quality Map" for the local area. Together with volunteer training for air pollution reduction, they developed various environmental education programs, such as animated videos featuring "Haze Brother" and picture books about the "Afute Village," making Puli a model town for nationwide grassroots air pollution reduction initiatives.

 

(3) Water Resource Conservation

Puli is renowned for its beautiful mountains and abundant water resources, including wetlands,

springs, waterfalls, irrigation channels, and underground water. These resources have not only fostered industries such as mineral water, Shaoxing wine, bamboo shoots, and paper production but also created cultural landscapes like laundry basins and Water Mazu temples. Recognizing the close relationship between Puli's water resources and local development, the professors from the Civil Engineering Department at National Chi Nan University have collaborated with renowned ecologist Associate Professor Peng Guo-Dong in recent years. They have actively engaged in action research on water resources and local community development in the upper reaches of the Wu River. Building upon the foundation of Puli's water resources, they have offered several general education courses such as "Community Environmental Education Practice" and "Exploration of Irrigation Channels and the Environment" to cultivate students' fundamental understanding and practical skills in the sustainable utilization of water resources.

 

(4) Technological Integration for Energy-saving and Happy Bamboo Shoots

Puli, known as the capital of Taiwan's bamboo shoot industry, enjoys a reputation as the "Kingdom of Bamboo Shoots." This unique local industry relies on the regulation of production periods through the use of high-pressure sodium lamps by most farmers, ensuring year-round harvests. While this has driven the agricultural economy of Puli, it has also brought forth challenges related to water resources, agricultural waste recycling, and the impact of artificial lighting on the nocturnal ecological environment and quality of life in Puli.

To promote the coexistence of industry development and ecological environment, the faculty and students of the College of Science and Technology at our university, with the support of the Ministry of Education's University Social Responsibility Project in 2019, prioritized addressing the lighting issue. They successfully convinced several farmers to participate in a field trial project using LED lights. The interim results showed that the use of low-energy and cost-effective LED lights not only reduces electricity costs by 75% but also minimizes light pollution and has a lesser impact on the environment. Farmers are eagerly anticipating the successful implementation of the trials to bring greater benefits to the bamboo shoot industry in Puli. Additionally, the research and experimentation on the recycling of agricultural waste materials such as bamboo shoot husks by the team from the College of Science and Technology aims to assist in the transformation and development of local specialty industries.

 

(5) Youth Engagement Staying Local and Development in Rural Areas

The Lancheng community, originally settled by the Barbosa tribe, has a rich history of community building. In the early years, the community established the "Jiying Hall" to learn martial arts for the purpose of village defense, and this martial arts culture has been preserved for over a century. In recent years, the community has also showcased the agricultural heritage of early farming through murals, depicting traditional farming techniques such as grain drying and threshing.

In 2016, a group of National Chi Nan University graduates who were concerned about rural land use and agricultural development moved into the Lancheng community and established the "Lancheng Good Life" initiative. They discussed the challenges faced by young people entering rural areas and initiated collaborative activities in the community's rice fields, including rice planting, harvesting, markets, and winter solstice celebrations. These activities aimed to reconnect with the rich heritage of rice cultivation and martial arts culture in Lancheng, fostering harmonious interactions between people and the land. Subsequently, the "Gulis Cooperative" was formed to promote various rural investigations and agricultural collaborations, exploring the possibilities for young people to live and work in rural areas.

 

(6) Crisis as an Opportunity: Building the Taomi Ecological Village

Crisis can be an opportunity! The Taomi community, which was originally a typical rural community, has undergone a transformation in the past two decades since the 921 earthquake. After the earthquake, the community experienced the four stages, "inspiring dreams and learning through the earthquake, trial operation of community autonomy, diversified competition among community organizations, and integration and innovation of community visions". With the active assistance and guidance from the New Hometown Cultural and Educational Foundation, the residents of the Taomi community dedicated themselves to various participatory learning activities after the earthquake. With the cooperation of the rich natural ecological resources and the continuous involvement of National Chi Nan University students and faculty, the community gradually transformed itself into a well-known case of post-earthquake community reconstruction with the concept of an "ecological village".

In recent years, the Sha Lian People and Society Center of our university, in collaboration with various organizations within the community, established the "Taomi Ecological Village Community Development Association" in 2015. This association has been facilitating inter-organizational discussions and designing action plans for the community. In 2021, their efforts were recognized by the Council of Agriculture with the prestigious Gold Award for Rural Development.

 

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