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Sweet Potato Mama? Who are they?

Walking on the busy street in Taipei, have you ever saw some vendors selling roasted sweet potato on the street? They are a group of hard working single mother as known as “Sweet Potato Mama.”

No matter how tough the life is, they will never give up. Because there is something making them keep moving on — their lovely kids.

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Why sweet potato?

Sweet potato symbolizes an important part of Taiwanese food tradition, and every Taiwanese must have tasted it some time before. Therefore, the founder of Genesis Social Welfare Foundation wishes to help single mothers to make a living independently on their own. Pushing a portable traditional oven that is shaped like a big drum, the mamas work almost everyday to support their family.

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How this works?

They sweet potato mama program is supported by “Genesis Social Welfare Foundation (GSWF)”. The fondation was established in 1999. There are three types of services offered by the foundation:

  • to take care of PVS sufferers in poverty.
  • to look after the elderly.
  • to care for the homeless.GSWF has long been assisting single mothers to earn their living independently.
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    Media Report

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    “The beauty of travel lies in the people you meet and not the sights you see .” and “Travel firm offers chance to experience life as a street vendor”

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    “Noting that the language barrier has never been a problem, because smiles always get the message through.”

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    Topology Travel takes visitors to meet single mothers who have been taught by the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation to cook sweet potatoes in mobile oil drums and sell them to make a living.


    Q: What will I do during the project?

    A: You will experience what the mamas do everyday. In Sweet Potato Project, you will help the mamas to clean, cut and process the yams! You can also take your time chatting with the mamas or other participants. Don’t forget to learn as much as you want to cook yams and share your stories with others.

    Q: How long will it takes?

    A: There are two part of this project: first part we will introduce the whole sweet potato mama project, including the start of the foundation and the project. The second part you can experience the life of these sweet potato mama – so sell the sweet potato with them! The tour is about 2 hours, after that you can choose to leave or stay longer to feel more about their life.

    Q: How much do I need to pay?

    A: 33USD per person, this fee will be use to pay to our tour guide and donate back to these sweet potato mama. We charge because we want to let this event can run as a sustainable development.

    PS. The payment that we receive from “Sweet Potato Mama Project” will be donated to Sweet Potato Mama Program except for the administrative cost.

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    What our participants think:

    “To Experience Taiwan… is to Know Taiwan”
    Dana – from Canada

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    Today I ‘hung’ with Miss Wong a.k.a. a Sweet Potato Mama…one of fifteen single moms who is actively attempting to embetter her life through a Taipei NGO community work placement program. I entered this ‘Live As A Local’ arrangement with Topology, with no expectations except to hang out for a few hours with a local lady and get a glimpse of Taiwan through a street vendor’s eyes.In the end…I didn’t want to leave…

    Touched by one life

    I arrived at Shandao Temple MRT, Exit 5, as arranged, at 10 a.m., and I found my ‘Miss Wong’ unpacking her 2 young (aged 3 years and a 4 month old) adorable hardly defines them, children. Her equipment was in place…a traditional oven, sized and shaped like a 45 gallon drum, the bottom half a charcoal burning compartment, the top half containing a grill to bake the yams…all on a portable trolley. Ingenious!

    Invaluable learning

    Yams are an available, yearlong crop that became part of the Taiwanese tradition through tough times. To me, yams symbolize more than just a tasty, healthy snack!

    Miss Wong has a year’s worth of expertise in roasting red and yellow sweet potatoes, a 365 day work year, with 7 day weeks and 12 hour days! She is a master of the trade. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when tending to a toddler and an infant in between customers. I am in awe of her dedication, commitment and work ethics! I admire Miss Wong!

    More than just a sweet potato

    Of course I had to test the product. This steamy, moist Taiwanese red yam was the sweetest and creamiest I’ve ever tasted! Obviously liked by others too, because on an average day she sells 100 yams! I believe it’s Miss Wong’s ‘technique’ that makes them extra special!

    Love across language

    I am Canadian, Miss Wong is Taiwanese, and my Chinese is as bad as her English, but it didn’t seem to interfere with our connection…we laughed a lot, tried to teach each other some language and shared her hope.

    A taste will never forget

    My experience was so much more than just healthy snacks, cooked in a traditional way. I got a taste of a life I would never have known…and will never forget.

    (P.S. I also just learned that by donating your numbered receipts from purchases in ANY store in Taiwan…buys opportunity for all the Sweet Potato Mamas out there, to win the National Lottery!)