As the tragic events in Sichuan, western China, have so starkly reminded us, natural disasters and resulting poverty are seemingly permanent features of our modern world - Personal Statement introduction. My own understanding of these events is colored by personal experience surrounding rescue operations. During such operations, it became evident to me that poverty is a direct consequence of natural disaster. In turn, poverty in these areas stunts the ability of functioning education systems to get off the ground. My tentative solution is to use any locally existing facilities, coupled with financing from fee-paying students, to open an educational establishment that in the medium-term (two to four years) will be accessible to those unable to subsidize education themselves.
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As a committed and responsible member of the Taiwan Rescue Team (TRT), I have been trained in rescue techniques and operations, together with having access to people who enter disaster zones on a regular basis. These experiences have provided me with valuable insights into how cooperation between actors can be forged in order to surmount the most challenging of operations. As the only international rescue non-governmental organization (NGO) granted unconditional access to the recent Sichuan earthquake, the TRT has demonstrated what can be done if trust between people is garnered. Emanating from Taiwan, the TRT would seemingly be a highly unlikely candidate for Chinese recognition. However, through the TRT’s considerable expertise in dealing with domestic natural disasters, and due to its verifiable successes in this field, it has gained unprecedented respect from political actors inside the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The TRT, coupled with an inspirational work I encountered as a sophomore in 2005, resulted in my being better able to more accurately map my future career path.
A lack of education provision often stems from instability created after natural disasters. An inspirational approach of how to overcome these problems is featured in an unusual, and ambitious project, documented in a trilingual collection of folk tales. At Grandfather’s Knee: Zhuang Folk Tales from Wuming, represents a bold attempt, yet simple in its design, to provide an obscure orally communicating Chinese tribe with a usable written language. Their difficulties in meeting these challenges form a significant proportion of my motivation in undertaking a future career based on educating people confined to inescapable poverty, in remote, near-inaccessible locations.
Although I am of course in no way claiming that my immediate personal objectives mirror precisely those of the text, I nevertheless am determined to participate in the creation of educational opportunities for the world’s poorest and remotest of people. In the meeting of this objective, my time at Columbia University will be utilized researching ways in which educational opportunities can be best provided in under-developed countries, and among poverty-stricken people. Also, existing methods of subsidizing education in under-developed countries have come under fire. For example, foreign aid programs in which money is distributed between governments, have often been criticized for failing to deliver this assistance to the end-user: those people bereft of opportunities for advancement.
My vision is educational provision based on a scholarship-driven system suitable to the needs of third-world education. The current obstacles preventing the channeling of aid, ideas, and values from the developed to the under-developed world need addressing. However, these are the very obstacles overcome by the TRT in its gaining of access to Chinese earthquake victims. In other words, they are also lessons to learn. Formulating plans for my scholarship-driven idea at Columbia University will harness my interests, abilities, skills, and experience in the managing and solving of complex, multifaceted problems. Given my academic successes in the humanities and beyond, I believe I am equipped with the requisite tools to undertake work about and in a highly tangled field. These tools include a strong interest in language arts, linguistics, history, and psychology, all of which would be needed in any successful pursuit of my vision; a vision that I hope Columbia University could find it within itself to sponsor.