Three Departments' MERIT Volunteers Conduct Various Exchanges,
Researches and Inquires in Republic of the Marshall Islands
Professors and students from Department of Anthropology, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and Department of Geography organized a team of "knowledge volunteers" to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), a Pacific island nation, in order to conduct a one-month exchanges, researches and inquires project at the end of the summer of 2009.
Known as the MERIT project (Marshall Islands_Exchanges/Researches/Inquiries_Taiwan), the knowledge volunteer team made its trip in coordination with College of the Marshall Islands, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Republic of China (Taiwan), Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Republic of Marshall Islands, Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF), Taiwan Technical Mission in Republic of Marshall Islands. The MERIT project includes Dr. Yuan-Chao Tung from Department of Anthropology, Dr. Po-Hsiung Lin from Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Dr. Shiuh-Shen Chien from Department of Geography, and six graduate and undergraduate students from these departments.
The team, which was a part of MOFA's Youth Ambassador Program, conducted its fieldwork in RMI's capital Majuro Atoll from July 21st to August 19th 2009. There are five Youth Ambassador Program's groups traveled to others Pacific island nations of Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu at about the same time, also sponsored by MOFA. Members of the group to the Solomon Islands also came from NTU.
The MERIT project organized a series of interactive cultural programs for both students of the College of the Marshall Islands and National Taiwan University, in order to create an opportunity for mutual understanding between the Marshall Islands and Taiwan. In the project, five key dimensions are identified: (1) Social Life and Operations; (2) Humans and the Environment; (3) Family Structures and Relations; (4) Thematic maps in Making; and (5) Global-Local Dynamics. MERIT get together by cross-operating the four kinds of process, including (1) Indoor Workshops, (2) Outdoor Surveys, (3) In-Depth Interviews (with Families and Social Organizations), and (4) Participatory Observations.
Three main objectives of the MERIT project involve: (1) to promote cultural exchanges between the Marshall Islands and Taiwan, (2) to make inquiries for further comprehensive introductions to both the Marshall Islands and Taiwan; and (3) to conduct research for comparative studies between the Marshall Islands and Taiwan.
Dr. Chien deems MERIT as an experience derived from last years. The Department of Geography organized a team known as South Pacific Islands Research and Inquiry Team (the SPIRIT project) conducted a one-month geographic survey project from mid August to mid September 2008 in Kiribati and Tuvalu. SPIRIT coordinated with the ROC MOFA, TaiwanICDF, Ministry of Education and NTU's Office of International Affairs and College of Science and established a wide-ranging geographical and environmental development information database (more details see NTU newsletter No 11, April 2009).
Similar with SPIRIT and differ from other Youth Ambassador Program's groups, the MERIT Project integrated each department's specialty into originally culture exchanges. This combination made MERIT do much more various and deeper knowledge exchanges. MERIT not only performed terrific talent shows including dancing and singing, but also some basic academic study such as traditional swell knowledge of stick charts and Science, Taiwanese soft power as Taiwan Technical Mission in the Marshall Islands, living boundaries of the Watos (an traditional land unit), evolving family relationships, archaeological remains as cultural heritage, promoting Marshallese culture and diverse cultures in College of the Marshall Islands.
The MERIT members will give an exhibition and presentation in early October with other five groups from the Youth Ambassador Program in Taipei Guest House on 8th October 2009. And MERIT itself will also have an oral presentation and held a poster presentation on next early January (2010) in NTU.