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Taiwanese students offer free hugs for 'Yolanda'

Students from the National Chenchi University in Taipei, Taiwan extended a unique form of help to disaster victims in the Philippines caught in the rage of Super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan): Free hugs. NCCU.edu.tw/file

MANILA, Philippines - National Chenchi University (NCCU) students in Taipei are sending "free hugs" to victims of Super-Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines.

Those who donate money in the booth "NCCU Students for the Philippines" located near the entrance of the university receive an embrace from the volunteers in behalf of millions of typhoon victims.

A report by the China Post said, however, that many of the donors refuse to accept the gesture from "handsome huggers."

Veronika Tomanov, one of the three student organizers and an international communication student from the Czech Republic, said the campaign starting today till December 20 is a collaboration between different university groups and Tzu Chi Foundation.

"This is an opportunity to reach out and help a beautiful neighboring country," Tomanov told the Post.

Taiwan has extended over $2 million in humanitarian aid to the Philippines and called for donations among its citizens.

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"Taiwanese are always willing to help people, and I want to initiate further action to get more people involved in the campaign," Tomanov added.

The report also noted, however, that people are less willing to help the Philippines, which saw a record-breaking weather event affect Visayas, compared to the sympathy given to the Japanese following the Fukushima nuclear reactor and tsunami incidents the past years.

"The reluctance is apparently a result of the acrimony between the two countries after a May 9 shooting incident in which a Taiwan fisherman was allegedly gunned down by Philippine coast guards," the report said.

Taiwan was among the first countries that immediately responded to the calamity that flattened Philippine towns and cities in November.

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