Students enjoy the reception
On February 26, the Building the TOMODACHI Generation program came to a successful close in Washington, DC.
Japanese college students arrived mid-February to begin the intensive, two-week program, which opened with a welcome session featuring remarks by USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye. During the first week of the program, the 19 Japanese students learned about the role and function of civil society, the structure and history of the U.S. nonprofit sector, and how cross-sector partnerships among businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations address contemporary challenges. These panels included speakers such as 2015 ELP alumnus and Associate Member Rei Tsuchiya, USJC Director of Education Mya Fisher and USJC Communications Manager Shiori Okazaki.
At the end of the week, the Japanese students were joined by 15 U.S. students to form international teams tasked with developing a project that addresses ongoing issues facing the Tohoku region. Each team was assigned to one of five cities in Miyagi prefecture. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the third year of the Building the TOMODACHI Generation Program. As such, the focus of the projects was more on long-term sustainability and community healing than on immediate relief. The projects were assessed by a panel of judges that included USJC member and President of Global Giving Mari Kuraishi.
USJC staff members Ms. Fisher (left) and Ms. Lauren Mosely (right) speak with students at the reception
Following the final presentations, USJC staff spoke with students about their experience on this program. Yumeko Inoue of Sophia University said, “This program has been a great learning opportunity. I have learned so many things, including civil society, teamwork skills, and skills needed in global fields. But most of all, this program made me realize that we each have different strengths, and that if we combine them together, we can bring changes to create a sustainable and resilient environment.
Students from the BTG program
This summer, the two winning teams (Team Tachiagare and Team Ningyo) will travel to the towns they researched (Kesennuma and Onagawa, respectively), and present the project to town and regional leaders. Team Tachiagare addressed the sea wall--which was constructed to prevent further disasters--and proposed bimonthly events by the wall to reclaim the ocean that is now obstructed by it. Team Ningyo hopes to revive the fishing industry, by creating a school curriculum where local fishermen teach students about the production of Hoya, a sea pineapple that used to be a major export for Miyagi prefecture. More information about their proposals can be found here. We wish them the best of luck on their presentation and congratulate them on being chosen.
See more photos from the closing reception on The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) Flickr album here. This program was developed through a partnership between TWC and the U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI). It is administered by TWC and generously funded by the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges.