Not only mothers are being cited for supporting their families in the midst of great adversity. Grandmothers and even a great-grandmother are among 24 "self-strengthening" moms honored by the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, a non-government organization dedicated to awarding needy children and their families with welfare and benefits.
The great-grandmother is Shen Juan Tsung-tzu, 74, who takes care of two great-grandchildren and a grandchild by collecting recyclable items -- the main source of income for her five-member family. The government helps her support her family with low-income supplements.
Shen's indefatigable love for her offspring has won her a special reward from one of her great-grandchildren, who wrote that: "If one day your eyes cannot see and you can no longer walk, I will be your eyes and your legs. I will make money to support you when I grow up."
Following are excerpts of reports by major Taiwanese newspapers on these laudable mothers and their touching stories, to coincide with the approach of May 13, Mother's Day.
Shen Juan's recycling job brings her only about NT$2,000 (US$69) in monthly income, so she has to do other odd jobs when she can find them. To make sure her young ones get nutritious food, she grows her own onions, cabbages and other vegetables and cooks their meals all by herself.
She calmly relates her stories of family members passing away, heavy debts, and pressure on her shoulder to support the family after one grandchild died, leaving behind two small great-grandchildren.
It is these two great-grandchildren, who understand her heavy load, that brings her to tears when she tells of their cooperation with her and their considerate love. "They massage my feet when I feel tired," Shen Juan said.
She said her only wish for Mother's Day is that all three of her young ones will grow up in safety and in good health.
Four of the "self strengthening" moms are grandmothers, and 15 are single mothers.
Chung Chin-yu, 64, is one of the cited grandmothers. She takes care not only of her paralyzed husband but also three grandchildren.
The Yunlin County resident makes a living by cleaning green onions for farmers, a job that earns her a meagre wage but hurts the skin of her hands. She withstands the pain and insists on earning a decent living.
The average monthly income of NT$8,000 is not enough for the family. Donations from friends and relatives, and support from neighbors who share their farm produce with Chung, help keep her family at the subsistence level.
Wu Chen Hsiu-ying, 75, is another grandma who must take care of three grandchildren.
She starts her work -- harvesting oysters -- at 4 a.m. and works for 12 hours per day. She earns only NT$12,000 a month for this, which is barely enough to support the family.
In another event citing 51 mothers from around the country, President Ma Ying-jeou was invited to present awards to them, some of whom are new immigrants, and all of whom have overcome all kinds of hardship in their whole-hearted devotion to their families.
Among the award-winners is Lee Li-feng of New Taipei, whose husband suffered a brain injury 18 years ago while working at a brick factory.
Their eldest daughter is mentally challenged and cannot help much to improve the family's economic situation. Taking care of all three daughters and her husband has become her duty.
She supports the family by delivering newspapers, working at breakfast restaurants, cleaning houses and doing any other odd jobs she can find.
You Chang A-yeh of Yilan County was honored for managing to raise four children after her husband fled, probably to evade his debts after a business failure, leaving her with a huge debt burden. (May 6, 2012)
United Daily News:
Hsueh Chieh-yun tried to commit suicide three times after her husband had an affair and left her in heavy debt. When she was lying in a coma after taking an overdose of sedatives, she was shocked back to life by one of her children pleading with her for something to eat. She realized she could not die and leave the children alone.
Now 45 years old, Hsueh has a daughter in university and a son in elementary school. It was her daughter who wrote a letter to the Presidential Office to seek help when her husband's former debtors came to demand repayment.
Miraculously, a lawyer showed up the next day to help take care of the debt issue, giving her enough courage to live on.
When Hsueh gave a pep talk at the award ceremony, telling other mothers that "there is no hardship that cannot be overcome," those on stage and in the audience wept.
Hsueh was one of the 24 "self-strengthening" mothers selected from among 24,000 poor families that the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families has been supporting.
Fund officials said motherly love is the "greatest force" in the world, a force that they said has been demonstrated by the 24 "sample" mothers.
Hsu Chiu-ping, 42, of Tainan has demonstrated not just a spirit of perseverance to support a family of three after her husband killed himself two years ago, but also the generous love of a son left behind by her husband with another woman.
To clear a debt of several million New Taiwan dollars, Hsu worked in factories for a day's pay of NT$700 from early in the morning until 8 p.m.
Despite suffering from high blood pressure and hip trouble, she tells herself that she cannot fall sick, "because I have two lovely boys."
A-hsiang is not her own child, but she has been raising him since boyhood. He said that "ever since I can remember, this mom has been taking care of me. Happy or sad, she is always around."
And she gives A-hsiang no less attention than she gives her own son, Hsiao-chieh, who sometimes complains that "mom loves big brother more than me."
But Hsiao-chieh knows that their mother is such a hard-working person that even when back pain means she can barely walk, she will "crawl to work."
When the two boys told her for the first time Saturday: "Mom, we love you," the tough-minded Hsu was moved to tears. (May 6, 2012)
(By S.C. Chang)