Building a Resilient Future Through Cross-Cultural Exchange & Knowledge Sharing

Funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Administered by the U.S.-Japan Council

Overview

Japan and Hawaii share a profound and unique bond, deeply rooted in cultural and historical ties. In response to the devastating wildfires on Maui, Japan has stepped forward to offer unwavering support for the recovery efforts, reinforcing this special connection. The Kibou (hope) for Maui Project is a groundbreaking initiative that fosters the healing of affected communities, leadership development, knowledge sharing, and resiliency. The three pillars of the program encourage cross-cultural collaboration.

Activities

TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the TOMODACHI Initiative introduced the Rainbow for Japan Kids program, which brought children from Tohoku to Hawaii for rest, recuperation, and psychological healing. This act of kindness has come full circle with the TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program, where gratitude is being returned by supporting Hawaii in the aftermath of the Maui wildfires. In a gesture of reciprocity and solidarity, over 30 high school juniors and seniors from West Maui will visit the Tohoku area for a week-long trip. This visit is designed to foster connections with Japanese peers who have actively contributed to the recovery efforts after the 2011 disaster in Tohoku. Additionally, the students will engage in training and hands-on workshops aimed at equipping them with essential skills for contributing to the physical, mental, and spiritual rehabilitation of their communities. The TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program is grounded in the philosophy that firsthand experiences empower youth with empathy, strength, and hope. By drawing on the recovery lessons from Tohoku peers who have similarly overcome disaster, youth affected by the Lahaina wildfires will forge friendships, learn about leadership, and find space to heal — enabling Maui to foster a generation that is more robust, resilient, and ready for future challenges.

This program is in partnership with the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i and ODYSSEY Nature Japan.

Professional & Leadership Visit to Japan

A cohort of Maui leaders and professionals will participate in an educational tour of Japan’s Tohoku region, exploring firsthand the disaster recovery efforts after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. This visit aims to facilitate insightful exchanges on resilience and innovative recovery strategies, empowering participants with applicable lessons for Maui’s reconstruction. Participants will be represented from Hawaii State government officials, community leaders, private sector, and nonprofit organizations, focusing on gathering a group capable of translating these insights into actionable strategies for Maui. A significant focus of the visit will be exploring the elements of resilient cities, which will aid Lahaina as it undergoes reconstruction. This condensed experience is designed to inspire and equip Maui’s leaders with innovative ideas and practices for building a resilient, sustainable community, leveraging Japan’s experiences in disaster recovery and urban resilience.

Knowledge Sharing Seminars

Seminars will be held in Japan and on Maui, offering a space where community leaders can learn from Japan’s journey through recovery. These seminars are designed not as a directive, but as an open invitation to share experiences, with the hope of enriching the collective understanding of disaster response, preparedness, and recovery in a way that resonates with Maui’s unique circumstances and needs. Japanese experts, who have themselves walked the path of recovery from disaster, will share their stories and insights to support and inspire the Maui community as they navigate their own experiences. This approach is aimed at empowering Maui’s leaders, professionals, and community members with knowledge and tools, encouraging a collaborative and proactive stance towards building resilience and preparing for future challenges together. The project will also include a capstone reception to recap and celebrate the student and leadership visits and seminars.

The professional & leadership visit to Japan and the knowledge sharing seminars are in partnership with the Pacific International Center For High Technology Research.

Support

USJC is deeply thankful to the Government of Japan for their contributions to the people of Maui following the wildfire disaster and for funding and supporting this project to bring hope and recovery to the Maui community.