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Humble Taiwanese vendor handles New York spotlight in stride

2010/05/05 17:58:30

New York, May 4 (CNA) A Taiwanese vegetable vendor who made TimeMagazine's 2010 list of the world's 100 most influential people forher acts of generosity said in New York Tuesday that she was just oneof many unheralded people in Taiwan contributing to society.

The 61-year-old Chen Shu-chu said during the citation dinner atTime Warner Center that the honor recognized not only her but alsothe whole of Taiwan because "it has many people like me, quietlydoing good."

During the dinner, Chen exchanged greetings with other awardwinners, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, ElizabethWarren, chairwoman of the U.S. Congressional Oversight Panel, andMichael Sherraden, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis,according to officials at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office(TECO) in New York.

Prior to the dinner, Chen told a group of Taiwanese reporterscovering her New York trip that she felt honored to be invited to theoccasion.

"I'm happy to receive the red-carpet welcome and do not feelnervous at all," she said with a big smile.

Chen wore a red suit that she said she bought for NT$2,000(US$64.50) about five years ago after bargaining the price down.

"This is my best outfit and comes from my hometown of Taitung, "Chen said.

She also got her hair done Tuesday morning, hoping to create agood impression when representing Taiwan at the event.

At an earlier news conference organized by TECO, Chen said shehad no intention of giving up her vegetable stand despite hernewfound fame.

She said she was actually worried about her customers not beingable to find her when visiting her vegetable stall while she wasaway.

The self-effacing vendor said she had originally decided againsttraveling to New York for the ceremony but changed her mind afterreceiving phone calls from President Ma Ying-jeou, Minister ofForeign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang and Taitung County MagistrateJustin Huang.

Chen has made a living selling vegetables at a traditional marketin Taitung City on Taiwan's eastern coast since she was 13 years old.Over the years, she has donated nearly NT$10 million (US$320,000) tovarious charitable causes from her modest income, and, to hersurprise, her generosity is now earning her international accolades.

She said she had not heard of "Forbes" and "Time" until she wasselected by Forbes as one of its 48 heroes of philanthropy from Asiain March and by Time in the "heroes" category of its "Time 100" inlate April.

Chen said she was motivated by the desire to do good things forothers as long as she was alive because "doing good is more importantthan saving money."

"I am single without children. There is no need for me to leavemoney to heirs," she added.

Since her arrival in New York late Monday for her first-ever tripoverseas, Chen had also visited two Chinese supermarkets where sheasked about the prices of various vegetables and tried to gain anunderstanding of how vegetables were selling there.

On Wednesday, she will take a tour arranged by TECO of severalNew York City landmarks, such as Central Park and the Statue ofLiberty. She is scheduled to depart for San Francisco Thursday enroute home.

(By Zep Hu, Y.L. Kao and Sofia Wu)