About Us Activity Publications Inquiries & Access


Report on an Inter-University Event: Learning about International Cooperation Volunteers (Part 1)


On February 12 and 13, 2016, a group of 12 students from Ochanomizu University, Nara Women’s University, and Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, along with two members of faculty, visited Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) Nihonmatsu Training Center and the Coffee Time, a non profit organization (NPO), both in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. The aim of the event was to deepen students’ understanding of the role of the volunteers who work with people in developing countries, the qualities required of them, what they gain from their activities as volunteers and what is returned to Japanese society as a result, as well as to create a network through an exchange of ideas among university students who share the same interest.

Center director Mr. Susaki giving his lecture

JICA Volunteer Lectures

At JICA, around 70 trainee volunteers were undergoing a 70-day intensive training program to prepare them for their deployment to various countries in Asia and Africa. First we attended a talk by the director of the training center, Takehiro Susaki, who told us how he too had worked as a volunteer in public health in Zambia after studying history at university. He spoke impressively about the many things a volunteer can do to help, even without specialized medical training, such as locating patients, taking them to hospital, procuring supplies, buying medicine, providing simple care, helping immobilized patients with their work, and giving advice and education on measures to prevent disease. He talked about the collaborative nature of international cooperation as a field of behavioral science that brings together the knowledge and skills of different people and builds up and develops those skills and made some thought-provoking comments about the state of the world at large, in which the idea that Japan can continue to be safe and prosperous in isolation is no longer valid.

Lectures on Methodology

For the next part of the program on the methodology of international cooperation work, we were split into three groups to attend lectures on Community Development, Environmental Education, and Countermeasures against Infectious Diseases and AIDS.

In the lecture on Community Development, the main theme of the day was that no single manual exists that could cover the whole range of cooperation activities. The participation-style class used stories of problems encountered by volunteers in the past to give trainees an idea of the mental preparations they needed to make before setting out to the countries where they would work as volunteers. The instructor, Technical Advisor Yuki, ended with words of encouragement for the students: “I really hope you will consider volunteering in the Community Development field.”
The lecture on Environmental Education took the form of a report by two trainee volunteers getting ready to leave for Malaysia and Kenya. After the four students asked questions, Technical Advisor Miyoshi asked questions and gave advice. The two volunteers talked about their experiences so far, from a training session in which they made furikake flavoring over rice from used tea leaves to the workshops on the 3R principles (reduce, reuse, recycle) and eco-cooking, based on the ideas of staying mentally fresh and having fun. The instructor gave the group practical advice on running a workshop, from advance publicity to arranging a venue and moderating the workshop. The group assigned to Countermeasures against Infectious Diseases and AIDS attended a lecture together with two trainee volunteers who were preparing to travel to Ghana and Kenya. Technical Advisor Kamiya spoke about malaria, saying that in areas where the disease is endemic, although it is obviously important to develop medical systems and facilities through the involvement of professionals such as doctors and nurses, there is also a need for education to make people more aware of the importance of mosquito nets in protecting themselves from mosquitos and efforts to promote the sales of mosquito nets. The talk helped the students to get a better understanding of the idea that everyone should act by making the most of his or her own individual qualities and skills.

A Former Volunteer’s Experiences

Mai Nakazawa (a graduate of Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University), who was a volunteer in Kyrgyz in Central Asia and has worked as a member of the JICA training center staff since returning to Japan last year, told us how she decided to apply and the kind of work she did as a volunteer.

As a Community Development volunteer, she was responsible for introducing Japan’s One Village One Product movement to a local women’s cooperative. Ms. Nakazawa discovered various problems—that the group were not doing enough to share information among themselves, that they were not making products that met the needs of foreign tourists, and so on. She worked to improve the design and quality of the products, helped to draw up product catalogues, and helped the group to sell their products at trade fairs and exhibitions.

Since 2011, an animal mascot made of felt and developed in partnership with Muji has been on sale in shops in Japan. Ms. Nakazawa said “I think it’s essential to be genuinely interested in people if you want them to understand what you are trying to tell them,” and recalled how she had worked hard to increase the amount of time she spent with the local people outside working hours to improve mutual understanding.

※Pictures of the felt mascot project:  MUJI×JICAプロジェクト:キルギス編

Exchanges and Discussions with Trainee Volunteers

For supper we split into six groups and joined the trainee volunteers in the cafeteria to socialize over our meal. At discussions later in the evening, the volunteers gave honest and straightforward answers and advice in response to our questions about their motivations in volunteering, what kind of preparations they had done, and their plans after their return to Japan. Not everyone wanted to work in international cooperation as students. Some people had become interested in the program after starting work, and there was a very diverse range of backgrounds represented, along with people from many different stages in their careers, from new graduates to people with more extensive working experience (both those who had quit their jobs to volunteer and those who were still working). Rules at the training center are quite strict and detailed; we were told that as well as helping focus the volunteers’ minds on their responsibilities and preparations, this was also an important part of preparing them to stay safe in the unfamiliar foreign environments in which they would soon find themselves.

Socializing over dinner
Morning exercises
  • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加