First Student Cohort Returns from TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program

The 11 program participants pose for a photo at the welcome reception in Higashi-Matsushima City.

From March 17 to 24, USJC and the TOMODACHI Initiative conducted the first cohort trip of the TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program, during which 11 high school junior and senior students from Lahaina, Maui visited the Tohoku region, including Higashi-Matsushima City, Ishinomaki City, Onagawa Town and Matsushima Town, to learn about the reconstruction process and also the leadership exemplified during and after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Students interacted with local fishermen, farmers and community members and engaged with TOMODACHI alumni and local high school students.

Prior to the trip, the students went through a pre-departure orientation led by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i and another orientation upon arriving in Japan led by Odyssey Nature Japan. Their first day ended with a welcome reception attended by many special guests including the Mayor of Higashi-Matsushima City, local government officials, delegates from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a delegation from USJC and TOMODACHI and regional and local community leaders. The rest of their trip consisted of a variety of activities and engagements, including city and nature tours, outings and workshops focused on sustainability and developing leadership skills, cultural and sports activities with local youth, meeting with local alumni of the TOMODACHI Rainbow for Japan Kids Program and other TOMODACHI programs and more. Near the conclusion of the trip, the students gave a final presentation during which they reflected on what they had learned, experienced and felt during the trip.

The TOMODACHI Kibou for Maui Program is in partnership with the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i and Odyssey Nature Japan, and is part of the USJC Kibou for Maui Project, which is funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and administered by the U.S.-Japan Council.

To see photos from this trip, click here.