More than 200 university students from schools on the Chinese mainland have become volunteers for a charity program that has helped many schoolchildren from Taiwan during the past 10 years.
The annual program, named "Bike Angel", includes a summer cycling event and year-round online classes attended by students from the island. It has boosted interaction across the Taiwan Straits.
Lin Jiatao, from Zhangzhou, Fujian province, volunteered at the ninth event in 2021, which was held virtually because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
He said the online teaching platform allowed him and the students from Taiwan to learn about each other's hometowns and cultures.
"They were surprised to find that I speak the same language as them, although with a different accent, and eat similar food. Such cultural exchanges have narrowed the distance between me and the children in Taiwan," he said.
Lin recalled that when he communicated with a teacher from Taiwan about the course he was expected to deliver, the teacher discussed details with him a month in advance. Moreover, they rehearsed twice before the event and once on the day of the class to ensure that there would not be any mistakes.
"I can really feel that teachers and students on both sides have great enthusiasm for communication," he said.
Wang Wanbin, a volunteer at the eighth event in 2020, said the COVID-19 epidemic meant mainland volunteers were unable to ride with the Taiwan students and could only meet them online.
However, Wang said her exchanges with the Taiwan students via the online teaching project allowed her to feel their eagerness to learn about the mainland's culture and customs, and their desire to meet the volunteers.
"They gave me a thumbs-up during course feedback," she said, adding that the volunteers prepared mascots — yellow ducks — for the project. They were sent across the Taiwan Straits as gifts for the young students.
Huang Jing was a volunteer at the seventh event in 2019, which was the last time the Taiwan students were able to come to the mainland to cycle and the last time the mainland volunteers traveled to Taiwan.
Huang said he was impressed by one shy Taiwan student who was encouraged by the team and after a month of cycling repaid their kindness by helping other riders.
He said that the team recently received a screenshot from a teacher in Taiwan. In it, a student who participated in the activity shared a post on social media detailing how the experience had widened his horizons and given him a lot of knowledge from outside the classroom.
"I am very happy to see that the program really helped the Taiwan students. I definitely think it was worth all the effort," he said.
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