Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 22 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010 17:58

Striding forward through turbulent winds

Do the lives of rebellious, angry adolescents always have to degenerate into darkness? Gua Gua's story shows us that with love and guidance, every one can discover their positive force.

In my hands is the case information of a school dropout provided by the Chong Fong Teenager's School. At the top is written: "Gua Gua, 19 years old. Sent to live with her uncle since her father passed away. Gets most of her amusement from participating in temple processions. Wears unisexual attire and is extremely loyal to her friends. She has very poor emotional control, which often leaves people unsure about her, with the impression she could erupt at any moment in time.

A preference for temple processions is certainly a rare hobby for most children of the same age as Gua Gua. Most probably prefer to linger at net cafes. This image created immediately makes one think of Lai Mingwei who took part in the Taiwanese TV programme One Million Star 2, performing as a member of the Taiwanese temple hierarchy system who wear masks and perform a mysterious dance (八家將). And her fiery temper also brings to mind the destructive Korean star Zhang He in Volcano High.

So what kind of child is Gua Gua after all?

The answer is revealed: Though she is a lively, spirited girl, who dresses neutrally, she also talks with an aggressive …tone of the leader.

Rebelling to vent her emotions

Beneath her contented smile, there lies a rough life invisible to the onlooker. “When I was one month old my mother moved houses, Father was framed and pushed down a ravine to his death. I was raised by my grandmother at my uncle's house and it wasn't until fourth grade of primary school that I found out my life story." She had called them her Mum and Dad for ten years, before realising they were not her biological parents. This was terrible blow for the young Gua Gua.

Perhaps discontent with her life, Gua Gua became rebellious. She would often miss school and not return home. Her temper deteriorated and in school, if she simply looked at someone and felt irritated she would provoke them; furthermore, she was fervently loyal to her friends and would help them when they were in trouble. This further caused her to be the subject of much animosity. Once she was even abducted to a mountain and beaten senseless. If her uncle hadn't arrived in time, she could have been long dead.

At the time she lived in Sanchih, where she was a headache for the local police, as she would be wandering the streets in the middle of the night: "I had a lot of friends, and often there would be more than twenty of us sitting on the main road, binge drinking." Her family couldn't find Gua Gua and even used the neighbourhood radio to summon Gua Gua home; however, Gua Gua was very unruly, only appearing when she had run out of money, and as soon as she had got the money she would disappear again.

Three years of youth lost immersed in the processions

Gua Gua dropped out of middle school in 3rd grade and ran off to Danshui to live with friends. Due to money requirements she joined a temple youth troupe in Danshui that her friend had introduced to her. She would take part in all the temple processions. She participated in the lion troupe, dragon troupe, vehicles troupe etc. Without realising it, she had spent three years in the youth troupes, and although she looked grandand impressive she couldn't help feeling lost: "Is this all there is to my life?"

In the busy season, Gua Gua would often take part in a dozen or more processions; however, all the money that she earned from the processions would be spend inviting her friends to dinner or KTV and midway through the month she'd be penniless. She still remembers the day that her grandma fell ill, just as he returned home to ask for money. Seeing her lying on the bed speechless, with a helpless and disappointed look in her eyes, she suddenly felt aggrieved.

"It was at that moment that I decided that I could not continue like this" Because according to Gua Gua, her grandma was the most important person in her life; she had suffered for her and loved her as she struggled to raise her. Thus Gua Gua decided to depart from the procession lifestyle and return home to help auntie sell steamed buns and work in her uncle's shoe shop. Unfortunately, regardless of what work it was, Gua Gua would always start off enthusiastic but then after a few days she would always end up running off again.

This was up until the Taipei's Northern district Juvenile Services Centre gave her a referral, from which she signed up to the 'Career Preparation Plan for the Disadvantaged Youth' held by the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training (BEVT). This allowed her to enrol in Chong Fong Teenager's school and restart her new life.

However, with the help of social workers, who supported her with useful advice when her mood was unstable and discussed methods of mood control and emotional expression with her, she eventually managed to change her over impulsiveness. Furthermore through her career searching class she was gradually able to share her experience in services with her counterparts. This had the knock on effect of helping her express her skills and personal qualities and setting her aspirations for a future in the service industry.

Career experience and finding a settled job

Gua Gua's main aim from participating in career planning was to support herself and no longer be a burden on her family. Even so with her fiery temperature, and always overaffected by her ups and downs she often ended up resentful of her lecturers and classmates in course activities. Several times when she couldn't hold back her words this even ended up in physical conflicts.

When the course was finished, Gua Gua decided to apply for a job related to the packaging of organic foods and production assistance. Due to the social workers who supervised her progression, she also became more and more confident in her job. The day when Gua Gua was finally given the job officially, the social workers still contacted her especially, to check she was present on time, and after that they would turn up unannounced at her workplace to check on how she was getting on with her colleagues and bosses.

I still remember the first time we dropped in on her workplace; she told the social worker that her bosses and colleagues took the role of mother or auntie in guiding her so that she felt comfortable in the surroundings. Furthermore her colleagues praised the appropriateness of her speech and how well she blended in. The social workers were shocked, Gua Gua who used to be as sharp and piercing as a horn had already been moulded into a well rounded member of society. They figured that perhaps this working environment had filled up the hole that had been dug by her incomplete family life. After three months of work experience, due to her good work ethic, the company decided to take her on as a formal employee.

[important title="Currently there are over 4700 middle school students dropouts"]  and over 5000 middle school graduates who have failed to progress to the next level of schooling.The majority of these youngsters are lavishing in the margins of society without a professional skill or attractive record of schooling due to poor results in school or because of family financial difficulties. The Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare which has long concerned itself with the rights and interests of young people joined with other social welfare groups to launch the "Project to increase the employability of the underprivileged youth" The project hopes to give these rebellious youth the wings to pursue these dreams, the ability to energetically compete in the labour market so that they never again fall back into adversity in their journey through life.[/important]


Translated from Chinese by Nicholas Coulson / Photo provided by: Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare

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