The Chiayi County Government on Saturday signed a pledge to create a friendlier environment for people with facial burns, birthmarks or disfigurement.
Chiayi County Commissioner Weng Chang-liang signed the pledge on behalf of the county government.
At the event hosted by the Sunshine Foundation, Lu Yi-ju, a 16-year-old born with a nevus of Ota, and her mother, Hu Hui-chi, talked about their experiences.
Lu was born with dark pigmentation around her temples, said Hu, who lives in Chiayi’s Shueishang Township.
She thought at first that the dark areas would fade, but instead, they spread to cover the entire upper half of her daughter’s face, Hu said, adding that even the whites of Lu’s eyes turned gray.
Hu said that she felt helpless after her daughter’s diagnosis, but that she resolved to be strong, to treat her daughter like everyone else and not to intentionally highlight her appearance.
As a third-grader, Lu was shoved and teased by classmates because of her appearance, Hu said, but an upper-grade student stood up for her.
Hu said that she only found out about the bullying later on, as Lu kept it to herself.
In junior-high school, Lu was again bullied by classmates, who called her “ugly” and “alien,” Hu said.
Hu said that she comforted her daughter when she cried at home over the name-calling — encouraging her not to let herself be affected by what other people say — and that she asked the school to address the problem.
Lu later received laser treatments to lighten the pigmentation, Hu added.
Lu said that since junior high, she has become friends with the classmates who bullied her.
Even today, people often ask her about the pigmentation, Lu said, adding that she takes the time to explain her condition.
“If they tease me, I ignore them,” she said.
As a volunteer at the Taipei-based Sunshine Foundation, Lu said that many of these questions come from younger children attending the foundation’s events.
Lu said that when children ask her, she tells them that the pigmentation is a “beautiful butterfly.”
Now a first-year student at Kaohsiung’s Shu-Zen Junior College of Medicine and Management, Lu said that she is studying to become a nurse.
At the event, Hu thanked the foundation for supporting and guiding families of children with birthmarks or disfigurement.
Last year, the foundation launched the Island Tour project to promote “facial equality.”
In addition to the county government, 15 schools in the county have pledged to support the movement.
The county government said that it would put up posters in public spaces to raise awareness about facial equality, incorporate the topic into the school curriculum and work to eliminate employment discrimination based on physical appearance.
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Lu Yi-ju, right, and her mother, Hu Hui-chi, attend an event to promote a friendlier society in Chiayi County on Saturday. / Photo courtesy of Taipei Times