Project #10558

Rehabilitation for burn survivors in Taiwan

by Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation

Going to a job interview can be a nerve-wrecking experience. Whether it’s on our resume or during the interview process, we want to project the best side of ourselves and let the employer be won over by our charisma, our talent and our skills. But what happens when you have a visible facial difference? How do you make sure that people go beyond appearances and appreciate you for your qualities? This is an issue faced regularly by burn survivors when time comes for them to go back to active life and (re)integrate the job market.

Because of their different appearance, burn survivors often face discrimination when they return to their community, their school or when they try to find work. In order to raise awareness about this issue, Sunshine made a short film featuring one of our clients Cai-Yu that is inspired by her experience looking for a job, going to interviews and being “politely” rejected before even getting a chance to present herself once the potential employer saw her scars.

See the video here (you can select English, French or Spanish subtitles).

Sunshine Foundation helps burn survivors and people with facial disfigurement by providing physical and psychosocial rehabilitation services. Another important part of our work is to also uphold their human rights and dignity. It’s one thing to help burn survivors regain physical functions, but if they return to an unfriendly environment that judges them not on their talent and capacities but on their appearance, then we only did half of the work.

Your support is crucial not only in helping burn survivors like Cai-Yu to find the strength to return to a normal life after her injury and participate actively in society, but also in helping us change society’s discriminatory attitudes and beliefs towards facial disfigurement.

Now, during GlobalGiving’s Bonus Day on July 15, you have the chance to maximize the value of your support because GlobalGiving will be matching gifts made to Sunshine Foundation at 30%. This means that your donation of $100 will receive a $30 match!

We invite you to support Sunshine Foundation’s efforts to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to burn survivors in Taiwan by donating to our project Rehabilitation for burn survivors in Taiwan. .

Mark the Bonus Day date on your calendar!!!

Taiwan time: from Wednesday, July 15 at 9:00 PM to Thursday, July 16 at 11:59 AM.
US time: from Wednesday, July 15 at 9:00 AM EST to Wednesday, July 15 at 11:59 PM EST

On behalf of Sunshine Foundation and its international partners, a huge thank you for your support!

PS: We encourage you to make your donation early, because matching funds will likely run out before the end of the day.


Mei-Li accepting a public service award
Mei-Li accepting a public service award

A burn is probably the most traumatic experience one can go through. The ordeal doesn’t end after hospital discharge or after wounds have healed. Instead, burn survivors face the long process of rehabilitation during which they must fight against scar contracture while re-learning to live with a changed appearance. But from the struggles against these highly challenging life circumstances come growth and a new perspective on life. The traumatic experience also gains a new meaning.

This is the case of Mei-Li who sustained severe burns 20 years ago. Having undergone over 50 reconstructive surgeries and a long rehabilitation process at Sunshine Foundation, she made tremendous efforts to bring her life back on track by going back to school and earning many professional certifications. She also had to overcome the challenges posed by facial disfigurement when looking for a job but with her determination and confidence, she eventually climbed up the professional ladder and landed a managerial job. Mei-Li’s fighting spirit has touched many people and she now uses her story to encourage other burn survivors to step out during many educational activities. Mei-Li is also Sunshine’s Face Equality Ambassador, giving talks to raise public awareness about the rights of people with facial disfigurement.

“The burn injury is just another experience different from what other people go through. If you use a positive outlook to examine your setbacks and don’t see yourself as a victim, people will not look at you differently.” From helping herself to helping others, Mei-Li’s journey that started in pain now has a new meaning, as it is used to inspire and encourage many burn survivors and people with facial disfigurement: “If you put your mind to it, you can go back to school, you can become a manager, you can become a teacher. Each person has his or her own self-worth.”

The award recognizes Mei-Li
The award recognizes Mei-Li's public work

Dear Friends,

As we are getting ready to celebrate Lunar New Year on February 18th, we would like to take this opportunity to look back on 2014, and thank you for your support, which has made it possible for us to do so much during an eventful year.

Indeed, at the local level, we were able to provide services to a total of 384 burn survivors. We also held hundreds of educational activities across Taiwan focusing on prevention and enhancing the public’s understanding and acceptance of facial disfigurement. In addition to our five service centers in Taipei City, Taichung City, Chia-Yi City, Kaohsiung City and Hualian City, we also opened three new work stations in Taoyuan County, Tainan County and Taitung County to bring our services closer to our clients. The unexpected tragedy of the August 1st Kaohsiung Gas Explosion also led to the establishment of a new Rehabilitation Center in Kaohsiung in October to help the victims of the accident.

At the international level, we have continued our capacity building work to train burn professionals and improve their ability to provide better care locally to burn survivors. In India, we have continued helping our local partner build the capacities to set up and operate a rehabilitation center for women burn survivors. We have also continued working with partners in five Central America countries to strengthen their capacity to make pressure garments for burned children. And we are now developing a new training program for burn therapists from Nepal and Bangladesh that should take place in March 2015.

Some of these projects were already part of our annual plan, some were a response to urgent needs, all were made possible by your support. Thank you for helping us bring rehabilitation services to burn survivors in Taiwan, and for allowing us to share our expertise in order to better the lives of burn survivors elsewhere around the world.

2015 is the Year of the Sheep according to Chinese zodiac, and traditionally, Lunar New Year is a time for family gatherings and celebrations. On behalf of everyone at Sunshine Foundation, we wish you peace, health, good fortune and prosperity for 2015, and we look forward to continuing working with you to better the lives of burn survivors.

Opening ceremony of new rehabilitation center
Opening ceremony of new rehabilitation center

On August 1, 2014, in the middle of the night, the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung was rocked by a series of explosions caused by ruptured gas pipelines. People were shocked by images of destruction, with upturned cars, streets blown open, damaged buildings and fires burning uncontrollably. The explosions claimed the lives of 31 people, and over 300 people were injured. Among injured people, 73 people sustained burns, with 48 people being severely burned. Victims included residents of the district where the incident occurred, but also firefighters and paramedics who were responding to emergency calls.

Immediately after the incident, Sunshine mobilized its staff to visit victims and their family in the different hospitals and provide emotional support, in order to help them deal with the stress of hospitalization, the psychological impact of this traumatic event, as well as many uncertainties about the future that emerge following burns. Indeed, hospital discharge does not mark the end of the trials of burn survivors, but instead it marks the beginning of the most difficult part of their recovery: rehabilitation.

In order to ensure that burn survivors of the Kaohsiung gas explosion have access to quality comprehensive rehabilitation services locally, Sunshine inaugurated on October 16th a new rehabilitation center in Kaohsiung. Instead of having to leave their family and community to come to Taipei, burn survivors in Kaohsiung and southern Taiwan can come to this new center, which offers daily physical and occupation therapy services, pressure garment service, daily living skills training, individual/group psychological counseling and work preparation training. Burn survivors not only receive personalized services, but also benefit from the peer support atmosphere of the center.

Yan-Ting is one of the burn survivors benefiting from the services of Kaohsiung Rehabilitation Center. Yan-Ting graduated from a professional school, where he studied to be an auto technician. When the explosions occurred, he was on his way back home and sustained second to third degree burns over 36% of his body, including the hands, arms and back. Due to the severity of his injuries, he was hospitalized for one month and his mother had to resign from work to take care of him full-time. After hospital discharge, Yan-Ting began undergoing rehabilitation at the new center. Yan-Ting especially wants to improve his hand functions because there are many things he cannot do, like riding his motorcycle, cooking or simply doing simple daily tasks. Also, due to pain and hypersensitivity of the hands, he is worried that he will not be able to work in his field of auto mechanics. However, after one month of physical rehabilitation, Yan-Ting is able to handle more and more objects with his hands, and he even started to cook for himself. His self-confidence has also increased, and he now knows that he will be able to recover his hand function. As the eldest son in his family, he is especially relieved to know that he will be able to regain his independence and not be a burden or a source of worry for his mother.

The establishment of the new Kaohsiung Rehabilitation Center was made possible thanks to the generous donations of people like you. As a donor to our project Rehabilitation for burn survivors in Taiwan, you are a crucial source of support for the Kaohsiung Rehabilitation Center, as well as our other rehabilitation projects across Taiwan. You make it possible for burn survivors like Yan-Ting to not only regain the ability to live an independent and active life, but also regain hope for the future.

Mayor of Kaohsiung visits new center
Mayor of Kaohsiung visits new center
Burn survivors in Kaohsiung have their own center
Burn survivors in Kaohsiung have their own center
The therapist delivers and adjusts garments
The therapist delivers and adjusts garments

A-Liang* is an energetic, positive and resourceful guy in his early twenties who leads a full and interesting life. Although he is very young, he started his own web-design company at home and he even employs other young designers. A-Liang is also a music enthusiast who plays base and guitar in a rock band he formed with friends. Of a curious and inquisitive nature, his interests are quite broad and if something new captures his interest, he will devote time and effort to understanding it. Little did he know that these qualities would prove critical in helping him face a new challenge...

The moment life changes

In early 2014, while walking back home from fishing at a nearby creek, A-Liang was crossing railroad tracks when his metal fishing rod accidentally got caught in electrical wires. A-Liang felt a sudden shock and everything went dark. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital bed, his body covered in bandages. He had suffered severe electrical burns on his legs, trunk, arms, hands and neck. His fingers were particularly affected. He was fortunate that no amputation was necessary, but the fingertips were all charred and black, and his fingers became hypersensitive.

After many weeks in hospital, A-Liang was able to return home and that's when he started receiving visits from a social worker and a therapist from Sunshine's Central Center. Due to the severity of his burns, the therapist recommended intensive physical rehabilitation at Sunshine Rehabilitation Center in Taipei but A-Liang didn't want to be away from his family for an extended period of time and preferred to stay home. The therapist thus recommended home exercises, and also arranged for A-Liang to receive regular rehabilitation services at a nearby hospital. However, after a few weeks, A-Liang felt that he was wasting a lot of his time on the road and in hospital waiting rooms so he said he wanted to do rehabilitation by himself at home. At first, the therapist was a bit worried, but A-Liang methodically reviewed the pros and cons with her, convincing her that he had put a lot of thought into this and that he was committed to succeeding.

The importance of home rehabilitation services for burn survivors in the regions

For burn survivors living outside major urban centers, distance or limited medical resources reduce access to regular physical therapy. Sometimes, misconceptions about the scar healing process, ignorance of the importance of rehabilitation, urgent worries of personal or financial nature or other personal considerations also deter burn survivors from availing themselves of therapy, significantly delaying their recovery.

In 2004, Sunshine began offering home outreach services, with physical therapists visiting patients at home to plan rehabilitation programs they can carry out themselves. Therapists monitor progress, which reduces complications such as scar contracture. Patient education also inspires burn survivors to take charge of their recovery and become involved in developing their rehabilitation program. Visits also help identify burn survivors who, due to the seriousness of their physical condition, lack of family support, low motivation or limited local medical resources, need to carry out rehabilitation in the supervised setting of the Center in Taipei.

Client and therapist work together to set goals and achieve them

The therapist and A-Liang set out to outline rehabilitation goals, one of which was to be able to play the guitar again. In addition to providing pressure garments to control scar growth, the therapist planned a home exercise program which tried to use as mush as possible objects commonly found in the home, as well as activities carried out daily. For example, simple nuts and bolts became tools to practice fine motor skills. As A-Liang's physical status improved, the therapist modified his rehabilitation program and A-Liang himself began to look at daily life from the perspective of rehabilitation. Always ingenious, he started to think of ways to incorporate rehabilitation exercises and training in daily activities. For example, he became interested in making paper models and found that cutting, folding and gluing all the minuscule elements was a great way to train his hand function. He also began to play guitar again. Despite finger hypersensitivity which made pinching chords extremely painful, he found that with practice, flexibility of his fingers improved and sensitivity decreased. A-Liang actively discussed with the therapist his ideas and findings, and she encouraged him to explore these possibilities. 

During home rehabilitation visits, the therapist must move at the pace of the client and also try to make sure that she understands the needs and concerns of the client in order to ensure successful communication. She must also be able to adapt her clinical knowledge and skills to the home environment situation, and by discussing with the client his life experience (ex: interests, hobbies, etc.), she can identify ways by which rehabilitation can be integrated in daily life.

During a recent visit, A-Liang surprised the therapist by picking up his guitar and serenading her. A-Liang's goal to play guitar again is almost achieved and very soon, he'll be able to resume his active life.

Help us bring home rehabilitation services to more burn survivors in Taiwan

A donation of US$70 allows us to carry out one home rehabilitation visit to a burn survivor like A-Liang. Now, during GlobalGiving’s Bonus Day on October 15, you have the chance to maximize the value of your support because GlobalGiving will be matching gifts made to Sunshine Foundation at 30%. This means that your donation of $100 will receive a $30 match!

We invite you to support Sunshine Foundation’s efforts to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to burn survivors in Taiwan by donating to our project Rehabilitation for burn survivors in Taiwan. .

Mark the Bonus Day date on your calendar!!!

Taiwan time: from Wednesday, October 15 at 9:00 PM to Thursday, October 16 at 11:59 AM.
US time: from Wednesday, October 15 at 9:00 AM EST to Wednesday, October 15 at 11:59 PM EST

On behalf of Sunshine Foundation and its international partners, a huge thank you for your support!

PS: We encourage you to make your donation early, because matching funds will likely run out before the end of the day.

(*) Name has been modified.

Building a rapport with the client is important
Building a rapport with the client is important
Making model ships is a form of rehabilitation
Making model ships is a form of rehabilitation
Rehabilitation goal #1: Play guitar again
Rehabilitation goal #1: Play guitar again

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Organization Information

Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation

Location: Taipei City - Taiwan
Website: http:/​/​​english/​
Project Leader:
Marie-Claude Pelchat
Taipei City, Taiwan
$32,182 raised of $40,000 goal
340 donations
$7,818 to go
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