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Report on the Inter-University Event “Learning about International Cooperation Volunteers”


On February 16 and 17, 2017, the Global Collaboration Center held an inter-university event entitled “Learning about International Cooperation Volunteers.” Six students (two from Ochanomizu University and four from Nara Women’s University) and two faculty members visited the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Nihonmatsu Training Center and the Nonprofit Organization (NPO) Coffee Time in Fukushima Prefecture. The aim of the event was to help us understand the activities of international cooperation volunteers, the impact of evacuation because of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and activities supporting the disabled.

Presentation by a JOCV

On the first day, we were given an outline of JICA and JICA’s volunteer program at the Nihonmatsu Training Center, followed by presentations from former Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) and a chance to talk with trainees preparing for volunteer activity. Training Center director Takehiro Susaki spoke about the importance of approaching everything with curiosity and imagination, and explained that while the threshold for international cooperation may seem high, there is always somewhere that individuals can contribute using their particular fields of expertise and specialist knowledge.
In the former JOCV segment of the program, Akemi Toshino, who worked as a public health nurse in Indonesia, told us about her struggles dealing with her counterpart and with local residents during her community nursing experience. I empathized with her forward-looking attitude to the difficulties she confronted, writing things down if they weren’t understood verbally, and storing up what she needed to do for next time if things didn’t go to plan the first time.

Small-group discussions with JOCVs
preparing for their first trips

Next, we heard from Naoki Nakayama, who worked on youth activities in Ghana, about partnering with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education to improve science and information communication technology (ICT) classes in schools. He apparently ran into many difficulties after taking up his position, including teachers being absent without leave, corporal punishment of students, and the lack of equipment. As part of his presentation, he had us all engage in group work about what we would have done in the same situation, which was a good chance for us to put our own minds to work.
Nihonmatsu Training Center staff member Ryo Nagai showed a video of JOCV members operating in Ghana and Malawi, giving us a real sense of the work that they do.
After dinner, we heard from trainees preparing to go abroad about their motivations for joining the JOCV scheme, what they hoped to get out of their JOCV experience, and advice on what we should do during our university years.

Taking part in the daily morning gathering

On the second day, after reviewing what we had learned the day before in the form of a group discussion, we visited Coffee Time, where Director Yuriko Hashimoto explained the NPO’s activities and then showed us through the workplace. Coffee Time celebrated its 10th anniversary in December last year, six years after evacuating from the town of Namie to Nihonmatsu due to the impact of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Coffee Time’s primary focus is on supporting people with disabilities in returning to society. Listening to Director Hashimoto and observing the workplace helped us to understand what kind of support disabled people need and how difficult it is to make a profit. We also learned that although a part of the evacuation order placed on Namie is about to be lifted by the end of March, local infrastructure such as restaurants and variety stores has not yet recovered, making it difficult for people to return.

Explanation from Coffee Time Director Hashimoto

Coming into contact with JOCV activities through this event made our previous conceptual grasp of international cooperation much more concrete. We also deepened our understanding of the difficulty of social participation for mentally-disabled people as well as disaster recovery, while hearing from people actually involved. As a joint program involving multiple universities, it was also a good opportunity for inter-university exchange. The Global Cooperation Center will continue to hold inter-university events like these in the years ahead.

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