Taiwan university students offer free hugs for typhoon relief

Taiwan university students offer free hugs for typhoon relief

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Students at National Chengchi University (NCCU) are giving typhoon victims in the Philippines a much-needed hug by giving free hugs to those who donate money to them.

Most of the donors, however, are too shy to accept the offer from an army of handsome “huggers” at a side entrance to the university campus in Muzha District in the outskirts of Taipei.

The Dec. 16-20 campaign, “NCCU Students for the Philippines,” is a collaborative effort between a group of students, mostly exchange students from abroad, and Tzu Chi Foundation, a charity.

“This is an opportunity to reach out and help a beautiful neighboring country,” Veronika Tomanov, one of the three student organizers and an international communication student from the Czech Republic, told reporters.

“Taiwanese are always willing to help people, and I want to initiate further action to get more people involved in the campaign,” she said, adding she was inspired by a grumpy local resident, who has complained the students “are too self-centered to lift a finger to help those in need.”

The student initiative came as response to government calls for donations to the Philippine people has remained lukewarm since Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of Leyte and Samar islands in the Southeast Asia country in early November. More than 6,000 people were killed in the Philippines alone, and thousands more were made homeless.

In a sharp contrast to the outpouring of sympathy for Japanese victims in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the country as a whole appears to be less willing to give to the Philippines, a country much less wealthy than the world's third largest economy.

The reluctance is apparently a result of the acrimony between the two countries after a May 9 shooting incident in which a Taiwan fisherman was allegedly gunned down by Philippine coast guards.

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