Taipei, July 20 (CNA) Visitors to Taiwan often choose to spend their time enjoying the country's food culture and scenic sites, but a group of Mexican students who visited Taiwan last week decided to create a different memory for themselves.
The 29 students from Mexican swimming school Acuatica Nelson Vargas were in Taiwan from July 11 to 17 to attend the 2016 International Children's Games in New Taipei City.
Before their departure Sunday, the 12- to 15-year-old swimmers opted not to tour Taipei as was originally planned and instead joined with the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation to help Taiwanese single mothers sell roasted sweet potatoes on the streets of Taipei.
The teenagers repeatedly called out "Hao Chi De Di Gua!" (Mandarin for "delicious sweet potatoes") to draw pedestrians to one of the sweet potato stalls on Zhongxiao East Road and let out a group cheer whenever someone stopped to make a purchase.
They helped 47-year-old single mother Lai Kuei-fang (賴貴芳) sell out all 33 bags of her roasted sweet potatoes in less than an hour, earning NT$1,650 (US$51).
The Genesis foundation assists single mothers in making a living by providing them with traditional ovens to roast sweet potatoes for sale.
"I am so moved. (The sweet potatoes) wouldn't have sold so fast on a normal day," Lai told CNA.
She said the students not only helped her sell her sweet potatoes, but also purchased the potatoes and then donated all of them back to her. But she insisted that they keep some so they could enjoy the taste of Taiwanese-style potatoes, Lai said.
Lai's younger sister Lai Mei-chun (賴美君) said the students were probably used to volunteer work, but "it was great encouragement for single mothers like my sister."
"Who says travelers should only seek out entertainment and go shopping when they visit a place?" she said.
Fernanda Diez, who headed the delegation to Taiwan, said her group decided to change their travel plans after learning about the possibility to do charity work through a travel agency.
"We were very surprised by how nice the people of Taiwan are," Diez said. "We wanted to give back."
Swimmer Alvaro Baillet, 14, said the event on Sunday was a deviation from their original plan, "but I'm pleased because it was for a good cause."
"I feel good," he said. "I think we are really helping in a good and direct way. We are not just donating."
But he laughed and said they still could only speak one phrase in Mandarin: "delicious sweet potatoes!"
(By Christie Chen)