Dr. Lian Jia-en became the first Taiwanese private citizen to be granted the title of Chavalier de l'ordre de Nationale by the government of Burkina Faso last night.
During the opening of the ceremony, Burkina Faso ambassador Jacques Sawadogo expressed his country's sincere gratitude for Lian's humanitarian work during his three-year stay in the country.
"This ceremony eloquently symbolizes the value of the friendship and solidarity between the people of the Republic of China on Taiwan and Burkina Faso. The ceremony is also a token of acknowledgement of the inestimable contribution of Doctor Lien Jian-en for the well-being of the people of Burkina Faso," said Sawagodo.
Sawadogo also added that President Blaise Compaore, the leader of Burkina Faso was very pleased with Lian's dedication and wished for Lian to be highly recognized for his service.
In his acceptance speech, Lian deflected the praise and said the honor belongs to the all the predecessors who worked so diligently to build Taiwan's relationships with foreign countries.
"I thank my parents, my parent-in-laws, and my wife for their utmost support. But most of all, I thank the Heavenly Father, who is the fountain of all goodness in my life," said Lian in fluent French.
Unlike most young men in the country, Lian gave up the chance to complete his military service in Taiwan, instead serving his time abroad in countries which have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Lian, a devout Christian, said that when he received his assignment to Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, he had the impression that it was part of God's plan for him, thus he did not hesitate in responding.
After witnessing the devastation of the rural population of the country, Lian decided to set up a clothes exchange program where local children could receive an item of second-hand clothes donated by his church in Taiwan for three bags of garbage.
He posted his idea on the web and within a short period of time, he received over 1,500 boxes of used clothes from people in Taiwan.
In Burkina Faso, Lian became a household name, his fame further spread after he implemented other humanitarian projects such as well-digging and orphanage building.
Sawadogo said, "Everyone knows about Lian's work. They call him the Taiwanese doctor who passes out clothes."
After his one year and five months military service in the "dark continent," Lian brought his bride back to Burkina Faso for an additional year of his own accord.
Together with his wife, Lian established an orphanage in Koudougou, a town south of the capital. Currently, the orphanage has over 50 children. Before their departure, the Lians also built a soap-making facility within the orphanage so the residents could earn extra money.
Lian's uncle revealed that as a child Lian traveled around the rural areas of the island with his father who was a volunteer dentist during his spare time.
"From a young age, Lian learned the value of helping others and the idea of loving your neighbors was ingrained in him. He often helped his father on his volunteer trips by carrying the tool boxes," said the uncle.
Lian has returned to Taiwan to finish his medical training as a resident doctor at the Taipei Veteran General Hospital. He said that since he owes the government some time, he has six more years before he becomes a "free man."
"When the time comes, I will decide my next station in life," said Lian.
As a motivational speaker, Lian often encourages the younger generation to perform generous acts of service in their capacities. On many occasions, Lian said he has faith in the young people of Taiwan.
When helping others becomes a popular trend in society, said Lian, teenagers who are addicted to spending time in the Internet cafe and on drugs will change their ways.