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Inter-university event – Learning About International Volunteers


On February 12 and 13, 2015, the Global Collaboration Center staged the collaborative inter-university event, Learning About International Volunteering. Nineteen students from Ochanomizu University, Nara Women’s University and Miyagigakuin Women’s University took part in the live-in event, which was a forum for interaction with experienced volunteers to Asia and Africa and pre-despatch trainees, convened with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Nihonmatsu Training Center to consider the role of international volunteers and the nature of grass roots international cooperation. Below we reproduce a report of the event from some of the participants.

(Mr. Kitano, Director General of the JICA Nihonmatsu
Training Center, talking to the group)

Day One

After arriving at the Nihonmatsu Training Center and a delicious lunch, we were shown around the trainee’s residential facilities. I was particularly impressed by the building housing the classrooms in which languages are taught. In the destinations to which volunteers are sent language is the most important ability, and language learning therefore makes up a very high proportion of the training, and the doors of classrooms and walls of corridors were plastered with many notices written in multiple languages. Combined with the sign hanging from the ceiling saying ‘Speak your target language’, I was left with a clear sense of the importance placed on language learning.

After the tour we listened to a talk by Mr. Kazuto Kitano, Director General of the Training Center. This year, 2015, is the 50th anniversary of the start of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and we heard about the requisites of volunteers and the significance of volunteering. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect again upon what it is to be a volunteer.

(Midori Kimura, 1st year student, Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities,
Faculty of Letters and Education, Ochanomizu University)

(With Mr. Tanaka and Ms. Sato)

Mr. Tanaka’s motto is ‘Rather than regretting not having done something, better to regret having done it’ and she challenged us to make the day an opportunity to take a step. It was a wonderful opportunity for participating students to confront themselves and to think about what one step we can each take to achieve our dreams.

Ms. Sato, referring to the richness of spirit she felt in Bangladesh, gave us pause for thought when she said ‘Japan is convenient and an easy place to live, but are we rich in spirit? What have we lost in exchange for convenience?’

(Natsumi Ohmura, 1st year student, Master’s course,
Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Nara Women’s University)

Day Two

Fukushima – as told by “women”

March 11, 2011, the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake and its associated nuclear accident in Fukushima, is no doubt still fresh in the memories of many. Ms. Nitto, representing the Girls Life Labo, spoke from a woman’s perspective on the topic, Fukushima Today.

(Ms. Nitto talking to the group)

The Girls Life Labo is involved in a wide range of activities, including staging events to reduce growing uncertainty from the nuclear accident by teaching about the body, and broadcasting talks on radio about politics and nuclear power. The Labo is also seeking to rediscover the good things about Fukushima and disseminate that information through the Fukushima Piece Project; adding ‘kawaii, or cute’ to traditional Fukushima crafts and turning them into attractive products.

Ms. Nitto also talked to us about the events of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident. She told us that until the accident, she didn’t know where the nuclear power station was, how far away it was, or its influence. She spoke of her bitterness at not being protected, despite the anxiety. And she spoke of her shock at seeing a poster that read ‘cars with Fukushima number plates not welcome here’. Her talk reaffirmed for me how very dangerous it is to know almost nothing about nuclear power generation, which supports that bedrock of our lives, electricity consumption. Ms. Nitto’s call to ‘know and make choices’, and her statement that ‘our voices (choices) reach the government through elections’, resonated strongly with me, who is still learning about these things and is yet to engage with society by voting.

(Yuka Igarashi, 1st year student, Division of Liberal Arts and Humanities,
Faculty of Letters and Education, Ochanomizu University)

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