Philanthropy is described as the desire or need to foster the well-being of others, which is usually expressed by an act of giving monetary donations toward worthy and just causes. Philanthropy can also be expressed by giving time and effort to worthy causes; Oliver Zunz a University of Virginia history professor and author described Philanthropy as “the love of humanity through caring, developing, nurturing and enhancing the essence of what it is to be human on both the benefactors’ and the beneficiaries’ parts; Zunz also said “ that the most conventional definition for philanthropy is “private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of life. For the true philanthropist, I feel, does not have the desire to be illuminated under the popularity of the so-called “lights, camera, action, but rather wishes to make a difference in the lives of people who are not able to afford the least expensive things. Let us briefly attempt to look at those whom we cannot see…the unsung philanthropists whose charitable acts and gifts continue to shape, mold, and move the lives of those who are not as fortunate. Let us consider the true and radiant spotlight of an individual living in the eastern hemisphere.
For the True Philanthropist In eastern Taiwan there is a stall in Taitung County’s market where we find a vegetable seller by the name of Chen Shuju. This sixty-three-year-old Buddhist resides in a small house and is quite comfortable living a simple life. However, what I do find extreme and what Chen finds comforting is that she has given over four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000) to numerous causes, which include, but are certainly not limited to, a library, an orphanage, and a children’s fund. Chen has also initiated and instituted a fund to assist poverty stricken families with food, education, and health care. With Chen’s less than humble beginnings, extraordinary is quite an understatement for this Taiwanese woman who only has a sixth grade education.
It all started with the untimely death of her mother; She was only thirteen at the time and found herself committed to work with her father to sell vegetables at a nearby market in Taitung. Although Chen was only thirteen, her tedious role did not stop at the vegetable stand. Chen is the eldest of seven siblings. After working at the market during the day, Chen was challenged by the instinctive task of raising her six siblings. One must ask himself, how does an unexperienced girl exemplify all the characteristics of a perfect mother? the instinctive behavioral patterns of a mother most certainly made their way in and through Chen, as she had to see that her four younger sisters and two younger brothers were fed, bathed, and prepared for the following day. Even to this day Chen remains quite frugal when it comes to spending, partly because of her rough beginnings as a youth.
This is evident even today because Chen spends a meager three dollars per day for the two meals that she consumes. It should also be noted that she is a strict vegetarian as well. Chen maintains a certain spirituality and does not wish to bask in her own achievements or emphasize her giving. She simply feels that “money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it.” This is a very strong statement for a “mighty mouse” of a woman: Chen Shuju, an ordinary lady who continues to do extraordinary things on a global platform.