Driftwood Brings Business Opportunities for Calavi Tribe
An Interview with the former and incumbent Chairmen of Sunrise Driftwood Workshop, Mr. Zheng Han-Wen & Mr. Huang Qing-Tai
Written and Photographed by Huang Zhi-Jia
After Typhoon Morakot, it was shocking to see driftwood stacked on the coastline of Taitung. Yet, a pile of driftwood also provides job opportunities for Duoliang tribe. Founded on the Duo-Liang Elementary School with disuse, Sunrise Driftwood Workshop provides the most job opportunities for Duoliang tribe. The workshop offers them courses for woodworking including learning woods, designing and making. The workshop leads the way in tribal economy.
Duoliang Train Station Created the New Business Opportunity after Typhoon Morakot
Situated on the South-Link Highway, Duoliang Train Station was abandoned because the capacity reduced. Although there are no longer train riders there, the scenery is still beautiful surrounded by the seas and mountains. It is “the most beautiful train station in Taiwan” by word of mouth among railway enthusiasts, attracting many visitors to the station. There are more visitors in Duoliang station than before.
Although lots of visitors came here, most of the visitors would wait for trains to pass by, take photos and then leave. They never really spend time getting to know the real Duoliang tribe, not to mention spending money there. Surprisingly, the horrific typhoon brought the real opportunity for change and has brought business opportunities for the tribe.
Eight years ago, Typhoon Morakot brought the strong wind and heavy rain to the mountain; Lots of rocks and trees were carried by the floods and swept out to the Pacific Ocean. Till now, people in Taitung still remember the sight of coastline piled with driftwood after the typhoon. Then, some organizations such as Yuanai Workshop, Tsing-Hua Foundation for Web Culture and Education, and Lovely Taiwan Foundation decided to cooperate for the tribe. They continuously sought for the place for a driftwood workshop, and finally chose the Duo-Liang Elementary School to found Sunrise Driftwood Workshop, using driftwood to create job opportunities.
Yuanai Workshop was founded 10 years ago by Mr. Zheng Han-Wen, the then Principal of Jin-Feng Elementary School. The purpose of this workshop is to offer jobs to people in the tribe, helping them fend for themselves, take care of their families with stable incomes. They help students make process academically while acquiring skills in the workshop so that these students may make a living in the future. Moreover, driftwood is commonly found along the east coast so there is no need to worry about the material supplies. He thus founded Yuanai Workshop for men in the tribe to learn woodworking. He also found Yuanai Cloth Workshop for women in the tribe to learn sewing and embroidery.
Before Typhoon Morakot, grinders were the only equipment available at Yuanai Workshop. Woodworking in the workshop required extensive manual labors. After the typhoon, thanks to the funding from the sponsors, lots of equipment is purchased. The most-well-equipped organization: Sunrise Driftwood Workshop is founded by Yuanai Workshop and has since become the center of woodworking in the Southern of Taitung. Most of the woodworking orders in Yuanai Workshop are being transferred to Sunrise Driftwood Workshop. Mr. Zheng who had been the chairman of Yuanai Workshop for 10 years resigned this year and the veteran woodworker Mr. Huang Qing-Tai assumes the position.
Sunrise Driftwood Workshop Creates More Business, Attracting Indigenous People to Return Home
Mr. Huang has many students in the woodworking in Taiwan. He used to be a chemical major before he started to learn woodworking. With the assistance of Kung-Tung Technical Senior High School, he went to Switzerland to learn about woodworking; then he went to Germany for exchange of woodworking information. After acquiring woodworking skills, he went back to Taitung and took up the post as the president of Kung-Tung Technical Senior High School. Since then, the “master and apprentice system” and “the tough training” have become the features for the school and it makes a name for itself. Till now, many excellent woodworkers graduated from this school.
Mr. Huang still does woodworking often, though he was 83 years old. (photographed by Huang Zhi-Jia)
Mr. Huang (2nd on the right) discusses all the time with the woodworkers at the workshop about how to improve their woodworking. (photographed by Huang Zhi-Jia)
Although Mr. Huang is 83 years old, he still goes to Sunrise Driftwood Workshop every week and discusses with the woodworkers to come up with various designs for woodworking. According to Mr. Huang, skills are the most important. “As long as you practice it every day, your skills will be improved and lots of unrestrained ideas will occur to you naturally. Skills are the keys to everything. You’ve got to have the skills in order to create your own woodworking and your own artistic world.” Mr. Huang said.
“Sunrise Driftwood Workshop is open to the public. Everyone is welcome to come and learn woodworking with us!” said Mr. Huang. There are various kinds of equipment in the workshop. Its purpose is to promote job opportunities and provide a place for learning woodworking. Thus, anyone interested in woodworking is welcome to come and learn with them. Yet, some of the equipment is dangerous for novices, so woodworkers are recommended not to operate the equipment until they are familiar with it.
Huang Qing-Tai (left) instructs diligently young woodworkers. One-on-one instruction at the workshop is all the time. (photographed by Huang Zhi-Jia)
“The workshop is like the local factory,” said Mr. Huang. The purpose of establishing this workshop is to attract young people to return home and look for jobs here. Young people may learn the necessary skills and how to sell woodworking pieces at the factory. There used to be only seniors and children in Duoliang tribe, but there are young people staying.
Mr. Huang pointed out that everyone made something in his house to boost the economy in the 60s and 70s. Home is a factory. Hopefully, owing to Sunrise Driftwood Workshop, people will once again work together to boost the economy. Sunrise Driftwood Workshop serves as the powerful locomotive to develop the local economy, stabilize the economy, and keep talents in the tribe.
The Workshop Provides Diverse Products and Service Due to Resources of The Ministry of Labor
Currently, in addition to selling woodworking pieces at the Workshop, bread and soft drinks are also available for visitors. Visitors will not just wait for trains to pass by and take pictures. They will wander around and look for an even broader view. They can sit under the tree and have some bread and soft drinks while enjoying the view of the blue sea and the winding highway. They can take a rest or chat with others. Meanwhile, visitors are suggested to take time to look around the woodworking pieces in the workshop. Those wooden furniture and objects assembled by joints are sturdy with a robust texture. Their unconventional style certainly brings out the unique taste of its owners.
The workshop aims to increase the number of employed people in the tribe and stabilize the economy in the tribe. The two objectives are in tune with the aim of the “Multi-Employment Promotion Program and Empowerment Employment Program” promoted by the Workforce Development Agency, Ministry of Labor. The agency and the workshop have been cooperating for years. The workshop has implemented the programs well. Currently, Empowerment Employment Program cultivates more woodworkers as well as guilds in exhibitions. The workshop leads the tribe to work hard to achieve economic growth.
Mr. Huang stressed that many woodworkers were his students back in senior high school. After they work in the workshop for some time, most of them would seek opportunities to start their own business. He always encourages them to do so. As long as they got skills, creativity, and ideas, they are guaranteed a brighter future!
Sunrise Driftwood Workshop also takes its social responsibility. Six years ago, after the 311 earthquakes in Japan, Mr. Huang led his woodworker team to Japan to help the locals to rebuild their homes. Mr. Huang emphasized that the workshop was established due to the charity contributions all over Taiwan and such kindness should be contributed to the society as well. The woodworker team went to Japan to help the locals rebuild their homes for three consecutive years.
As for their future plan, Mr. Huang points out that Paiwan people at Duolian Tribe are natural woodworkers. Besides, they have lots of totems for inspiration. Therefore, the workshop will hope to attract more people in the tribe to join. The workshop provides assistance such as helping one to acquire skills to make a living in the future, discover their personal values and stabilize the economy in the tribe, where contributes to the youths to go back for startup. Ultimately, Duoliang tribe will become a tribe for the woodworking industry. Driftwood is not just wood but a boost of the economic development in the tribe.
Huang Qing-Tai is very satisfied with the cabinets assembled by joints and decorated with hand-made colored glasses.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please attribute this article to “Workforce Development Agency, Ministry Of Labor”.