Schroeder ventures to Zhongli, Taiwan to help cognitively impaired students at Hsiangyuan

Senior Brendan Schroeder never saw Senior Project as a task he would simply phone in. Rather, he viewed it as a challenge to grow, an opportunity to become a true man for others. Schroeder sought isolation from his peers and a sense of challenge when it came to choosing his project. Hence, he decided to embark on a journey to Zhongli, Taiwan to provide aid to the Hsiangyuan. Hsiangyuan is a day-care type of establishment that takes in cognitively impaired students and teaches them valuable life skills such as cooking and cleaning. 

“It’s like a classroom, they teach them how to clean and basically how to live,” said Schroeder. 

Initially established and opened on Feb. 11, 1989, Hsiangyuan takes in students with various degrees of  challenge: mild, moderate, severe, and extremely severe. The establishment's pamphlet states that mild disorders can be educated, moderate disorders can be trained, and severe and extremely severe disorders should be taken good care of forever. 

“I work with the mild cases. I am able to help them learn skills, and to work with them, assist them, and even simply observe them,” said Schroeder. 

art: Leo Hahn

So far, Schroeder has found the language barrier between English and Taiwanese challenging.

“I find it difficult sometimes because it’s hard to communicate, and then when I do communicate, they don’t always listen,” said Schroeder. “The communication struggles make you feel more isolated, that’s kind of a good thing.”

Schroeder finds opportunity in the struggle. 

“It took me further out of my comfort zone, that’s one of the big aspects of Senior Project—getting out of your comfort zone,” said Schroeder. “I’m glad to be able to rise up to the challenge, attack it, and better serve these people.”

In addition to the gratification of service, Schroeder is also gaining new perspectives. 

“For me, the Senior Project so far has helped me to be able to see the world from the students’ shoes,” said Schroeder. “I can see more clearly the common humanity of everyone around the globe. I can feel that common humanity just by serving. To throw a language barrier on top of all of that, you can really feel more tied to these people, I feel closer to them because of the challenges we’ve overcome.”

In his brief time in Taiwan, Schroeder feels like he is making a difference. 

“It makes me happy to see the students get so excited to see me, they get so happy just by me being there. It shows me the power of service of presence and being able to bring joy to someone just by being there,” said Schroeder. 


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