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Helen & Talk Show: What is it that keeps you going?

We left Pine Home with the lesson and reminder, that “There is an Invisible Force out there”. Little did we know that as we left Puli County, that very Invisible Force was already working…and it led us to meet Helen.

Helen was a Couchsufer in Taichung. She runs an English learning center, “Talk Show” to help children learn English through stories. Unlike the typical English learning centers (also known as “cram schools”) throughout Taiwan, Helen insisted that learning should not be focused on cramming in vocabulary and grammar and tests. Learning should be fun and enjoyable.

When Helen and her family migrated to Canada many years ago; she was thrown into an English speaking environment and had to pick up the language overnight. This experience made Helen realise two things:

  • Firstly, the children of Taiwan need to learn English. They need to know that there is world out there, waiting for them to explore, waiting for them to create. And English can be the window to that world for the kids.
  • Secondly, the need to learn English should not take the fun out of it. Having to cram a language overnight into her tiny head in Canada, she wished she could do something to bring smiles to the many Taiwanese children who are sent to cram schools after school.

For the first reason, Helen opened her home and school to Couchsurfers. “If I can’t bring the kids to travel around the world, I can at least try to bring the world to these children!” Through having her foreign guests interact with the students, the children are exposed to “bits and pieces” from different parts of the world. At the same time, they also get the opportunity to “practise” their English with the guests. However, many Couchsurfers do not agree with what she is doing, and feels that she is making use of her guests. As a result, Helen receives very angry comments from some members of the Couchsurfing community.

For the second reason, Helen puts in tonnes of effort into every single lesson she has with her students. She prepares treats for students who volunteers answers in English in class. She dresses up like the characters of the stories she tells. And she never fails to greet every single child that walks through the door with, “Are you happy today?” But English learning centers like Talk Show is the first of it’s kind in Taiwan. And for the longest time, Talk Show only had 2 students. For a long long time, Talk Show barely covered rent costs, and Helen was living from hand to mouth. Everyone (her friends, her neighbours…and her family) was telling Helen to give up.

But Helen kept going, simply because…

Shot on Canon by Koh

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Talk Show was a “casita (little house)” full of happy children by the time we visited them.

“I know that I glow
When I remember my goal!”

– Helen

For Helen, there is nothing she would trade for the smiles on her students’ faces. And for that reason, for that one more smile, one more happy kid, she kept going.

Some of us
Kept toiling away at jobs we “had to do”

Think about it.

What is that one thing –
That makes your eyes twinkle
That makes you bubble with joy
That keeps you going?