TAIPEI, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Grinning from ear to ear with a microphone in hand, Yong Chien stands center stage and details the story of how he was bullied in school and recovered from the trauma.
"My ability to study and express myself was not very well developed," said Yong, 36. He said he used to be fat, very shy and a bit of an introvert, and people at school thought he was "a weirdo," and would make fun of him.
"I never dared to talk to my classmates, I would just quietly take all the insults and sit in the corner," Yong said. "I never thought I could make it on stage like today."
Yong was a co-host at a charity event held Thursday in Taipei to raise money for the mentally disabled in Taiwan. The event, launched by the local Syin-Lu Social Welfare Foundation (SSWF) and a local company, aims to raise one million new Taipei Dollars (32,710 U.S. dollars) to help mentally disabled people.
The public can go on a local shopping website beginning July 1 to donate money. They will receive cup holders specially designed for the event for their generosity.
Before he went onstage, Yong practiced his lines with a foundation volunteer "many many times."
"I wanted this event to be perfect," he said.
Yong may have exuded a sense of confidence onstage, but behind the radiant smiles was a tough life journey.
When he was 19, Yong went to work in a convenience store in Taipei, but the fast work pace and the urgent demands of the boss made it hard for him to breathe.
"I was scared and had to eventually quit," he said. "I stayed by myself at home because I did not want to see strangers."
Three years ago, Yong's life took a new turn when he got in contact with SSWF.
"I began to take part in their courses, such as singing classes and reading classes, and social activities," Yong said. "I became more outgoing, because no one would laugh at me or call me weird here."
"Last Christmas, we got to perform for a bunch of kids at a kindergarten," he said happily. "We sang and danced, it was so much fun!"
In class, the volunteers encourage them to stand on stage and share their life experiences with each other.
He said he gradually became more confident via such activities.
"I no longer had to worry about making mistakes," he said. "I felt at ease."
In the foundation, Yong also started to help other people like him, teaching them to read and how to express themselves properly.
"Sometimes my peers here would utter sentences that sounded very strange to normal people, so I tried to work as an interpreter for them," he said.
Yong said because he was once helped by others, he knew people like him needed friendliness, support and understanding.
For the future, Yong hopes to "become braver," and talk to more people.
"What we need is acceptance, and understanding," he said. "I hope that people can get to know us better, so that they know how we feel."
Liu You-chi, with the foundation, said that social understanding towards mentally disabled people is improving in Taiwan, but the public still lacks communication with them.
"We will hold events like speed walking in the future to help increase communication," she said.
According to statistics, the number of mentally disabled children is rising in Taiwan. In 2017, the number of mentally disabled children under the age of six exceeded 23,000.