Their Healthy Food Helps Educate Taiwan’s Needy Children

Zhang Xintian

This article is also available in [繁體中文] | [简体中文] 

Taipei-based Ai Yi Jia Qin is one of the country’s most well-loved social enterprises. Zhang Xin Tian meets the founders.

Ms Yu and Ms Chen

Ai Yi Jia Qin founders Yu Su-hua and Ms Chen Jui-chu set up a community-based school rooted in Chinese classic learning in 1998. Over the years, the school started a social enterprise, a food production business, as well as a café whose profits go towards sustaining the education centre known as Ai Yi Jia Qin (“Love Brings Families Together”).  

We speak to Su-Hua and Jui-Chu about their challenging and fulfilling journey as social entrepreneurs.  


Why did you start Ai Yi Jia Qing?

We believe that children are born kind-hearted, but without proper guidance, they lose their way. This is particularly so for children from disadvantaged families. If nobody extends their arms to embrace them, they will become new social problems.

Character-building is our focus and Chinese classic teaching is our tool. The latter approach uses classic texts from Ancient China specifically dedicated to teach children moral values. We designed these classic-reading classes to suit the children by enriching the classes with interaction games, experiential learning and storytelling.

We used our savings and borrowed loans to set up Gong Xin Lian Yuan (literally Cultivate Heart Lotus Garden) Chinese classics class. It was the beginning of the community-based education centre promoting holistic education through Chinese traditional culture. The programmes offered range from caretaking, English, and even Ukulele. Students also participate in cultural celebrations during Chinese holidays such as Chinese New Year and Vesak Day, and regular community volunteer work. There is also a curriculum for adults with topics ranging from career growth to digital education.

All are welcome, regardless of their ability to pay. Soon, people who believed in us donated. Small amounts accumulated and grew into our own foundation. We wish to nurture all, rich and poor alike.


What does the education centre do?

We are more than an education centre, but a school of life, and a community! We feel that high grades and competition should not be the only focus of education. What will the future be like if there is no respect and kindness? Our mission is to nurture a generation with character and conscience.

That is why we use Chinese classics to guide our children. Besides Chinese classics, we have diverse courses and activities for both children and adults, ranging from English and computer skills to lion dance and Buddhist traditions.

On top of classroom learning, we maintain a respectful environment and organize volunteer activities for children to practice what they learn.

Ai Yi Jia Qin products


Ai Yi Jia Qin is not a charity but a social enterprise. How does it sustain its business?

We employ women-in-need who produce and sell traditional Chinese baked goods and other food products. By doing so, we create job opportunities for single mothers and new female immigrants. Our revenue is used to support Geng Hsin Lien Yuan Foundation, which offers education to disadvantaged children. 

Indeed, as a social enterprise, we have limited funding because families pay according to their means. We are fortunate to have a committed group of staff that treats Ai Yi Jia Qin as their home. For instance, during the economic crisis, teachers voluntarily reduced their salary by 20% so we could sustain our operations.

We are creatively exploring ways to be sustainable. We now have our own healthy food workshop, where volunteers cook with love. You can support us by ordering through our website or Facebook.

Volunteer mothers making homemade pineapple tarts

Our active participation and winning of various competitions generate media exposure. More people know about us, and buying our product or donating to help fund our education initiatives. We won the Female Entrepreneurship Social Enterprise category champion.

For our food workshop, our ice rice dumping was proudly voted number two in an Apple Daily feature. Ice rice dumplings are a dessert that comes in an assortment of flavours like sesame walnut, mocha red bean, black sugar red bean, ice sugar sweet potato.

At the same time, we actively collaborate with other social enterprises, and get support from big companies such as DBS Taiwan – whose staff volunteers have done everything from packing jiao zi dumplings into boxes for us as, and even facilitated the redesign of our corporate identity through their agency.


What can we expect from Ai Yi Jia Qin in the future?

We have many exciting programmes ahead, such as expanding our healthy food workshop, organizing various camps, and setting up teacher training programmes.

The biggest and most challenging project however, is Ming Lun Yuan (literally Clear Moral Garden) Family-oriented School. This is a bold experiment which we invite parents (usually mothers) to join their children in this full-time residential education programme.

We wanted to invite parents as we believe that parents are children’s first teachers. There is no point for parents to teach their children how to live morally without themselves practicing it.

Instead of teaching multiple subjects simultaneously, this new programme only teaches one subject at a time. We believe in the saying 一門深入,長時薰修, which translates to: “in order to specialise in one subject, it takes long time of influence and practice.”

Of course, because it is so different, it is not for everyone. Both parents and children need to pass strict selection tests. They need to identify with us and be truly committed. The fit is important because we believe that “if we are not families, we don’t enter the same family house.”

Fortunately, the families who have been with us are happy to see their own improvements. Taiwan education officials also recognise the great efforts we have put in, and the positive impact we have made.


Check out other Taiwanese social entrepreneurs here and here!
































當然,因為我們的教育方式很特別,這並不適合所有的人。孩子和家長都需要通過嚴格的測試。他們要相信我們的理念,而且全心投入。彼此認同很重要,因為我們相信不是一家人, 不進一家門


































当然,因为我的教育方式很特并不适合所有的人。孩子和家都需要通过严格的测试。他要相信我的理念,而且全心投入。彼此同很重要,因為我相信不是一家人, 一家





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