International program for the affected high school students
Even before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami occurred, the Fukushima Chapter had sent students from the JRC* member schools of Fukushima Prefecture to a National Society abroad to promote international understanding and friendship. After the earthquake, the chapter has invited students from not only the JRC member schools but also non-JRC member schools to participate in the program. The purpose of the program is to explain the damage in Fukushima caused by the disaster to people of the National Society country and express gratitude to the National Society for the assistance they provided after the onset of the disaster. At the same time, the students interact with youths of the country.
* Junior Red Cross
Organized by: JRCS Fukushima Chapter; and council of JRC leaders in Fukushima Prefecture.
Supported by: Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education; and association of high school head teachers in Fukushima Prefecture.
Country and area for travel: Republic of the Philippines (Manila and neighboring provinces).
1. Visit to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and its related facilities;
2. Visit to JRC member schools; interacting with JRC members and local people;
3. Appreciation of Philippine traditional culture; visit to historic sites; experience of PRC's training for disaster response;
4. Visit to Philippine homes; interacting with JRC volunteers; and visit to other related groups.
- FY 2013
- Period: August 11 - 18, 2013 (8 days and 7 nights)
- No. of members: 7 JRC member students; 2 teachers; 2 members of JRCS Fukushima Chapter staff; 3 students from affected non-JRC member schools; 1 teacher from an affected non-JRC member school (15 in total).
This program was held for the first time since 2010 due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The participating students conveyed the current situation of Fukushima to the local people of the Philippines. At the same time, they learned what kind of activities the PRC provides in the Philippines where natural disasters frequently occur. They visited a nuclear power plant (which never went into operation) and the historic sites of World War II in the country. The students also visited the office of Salt Payatas Foundation Philippines, an NGO working for children and women in need who live in Payatas which is a dump site in Manila, and interacted with some of the people in Payatas.
In November of the same year after they returned to Japan, a report meeting was held. They shared their views about the trip and also began activities to support the survivors of the typhoon which struck Leyte Island just before they gathered for the meeting.
- FY 2014
- Period: August 10 - 16, 2014 (7 days and 6 nights)
- No. of dispatched members: 8 JRC member students; 2 teachers; 2 members of JRCS Fukushima Chapter staff (12 in total).
This program was held the following year. At the PRC National Headquarters, the participating members learned about the damage caused by the typhoon which had struck the Philippines in November 2013. They were told that the country was hit by another typhoon in 2014 but they could reduce the damage by taking advantage of the experience from the previous year. The same as last year, the members took a tour of the nuclear power plant in the Philippines and historic sites of World War II and visited a poverty area. In addition, they visited trash recycling facilities as part of the 2014 program. The visit to the poverty area and the recycling facilities was the most cultural shock for the students and they experienced the hierarchical society of the Philippines. This experience helped them to understand more a society of disparity.
- FY 2015
- Period: August 9 - 15, 2015 (7 days and 6 nights)
- No. of dispatched members: 7 JRC member students; 2 teachers; 2 members of JRCS Fukushima Chapter staff (11 in total).
The international program has prepared various programs for participating students to learn a lot of things. They learn about various Red Cross activities through the explanations by the PRC. The visit to the World War II sites gives them an opportunity to think about peace. We think that the trip also triggers their thinking about issues of social disparity, energy and the environment, which are regarded as challenges that Japan is facing and often reported in Japan. The JRC members, who participated in the FY 2015 program and are expected to lead the Red Cross activities in the future, gathered at a report meeting held later after they returned to Japan. They shared their views about what they became aware of or what surprised them in the Philippines.
Comment by Fukushima Chapter staff
The Fukushima Chapter already organized the international exchange program for students from 2006 to 2008. Each year, the program sent 12 members in total. The delegation consisted of eight JRC high school students, two teachers and two chapter staff members. The chapter reviewed the program after the program was held for three consecutive years and then the program was resumed in 2010. The next program was planned to be held in FY 2012. However, it was called off due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami which occurred in 2011. Many high school teachers who were in charge of Junior Red Cross activities appreciated this international program and its effects on JRC students and therefore they often requested for restarting the program.
■ Background for resuming the program
The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami affected Fukushima Prefecture. The Fukushima Daiichi accident also affected the prefecture due to the radioactive contamination. The All Japan High School Cultural Festival was scheduled to be held in Fukushima in FY 2011. However, the festival was scaled back and the JRC’s activities were presented only as an exhibition.
Soon after the earthquake, discontinuation of JRC leadership training center program activities** in Fukushima Prefecture was discussed. The JRC high school members gathered to discuss whether there was something that the Fukushima JRC could do for Fukushima in these hard times. Following the discussion, they made a proposal that they would travel to the Tokyo metropolitan area and convey the status quo of Fukushima to people there as well as PR of fruits (pear) produced in Fukushima Prefecture. This proposal was implemented. They also appealed for donations in Tokyo. Within one hour, a large amount was donated. Both the JRC high school members and the JRC adult leaders began to realize that they could really do something for Fukushima. They knew that the international program with youth of the Philippines for FY 2011 was not planned. However, the members began to voice a request for resuming the program every chance they could after they were informed of cancellation of the FY 2012 program.
** A JRC educational program to become a JRC leader. JRC members learn about the Red Cross and JRC, develop necessary knowledge and skills, and gain experience as JRC leaders.
■ Why did the Fukushima Chapter start this program?
・Before the earthquake
Some goals are set for the JRC activities. One of them is international understanding and friendship. As part of this goal, this program was started so that JRC youth in Fukushima Prefecture could look at the rest of the world and develop an international-conscious mind through communication with other JRC members abroad. The Fukushima Chapter had accepted JRC members from other countries who were invited by the Japanese Red Cross National Headquarters. The momentum for sending JRC youth of Fukushima Prefecture for international exchange activities abroad was rising. We selected the Republic of the Philippines which the JRCS National Headquarters had designated its assistance-focused area as the country to send our JRC youth, based on the significance of Red Cross activities and in consideration of future activities. Very few JRCS chapters had sent their JRC youth to the country for international program activities. These were the reasons why we selected the Philippines.
・After the earthquake
In addition to the purpose set before the earthquake, we reorganized the program so that our youth could interact with other JRC youth living in a disaster-prone country and look at the history of the past war for their future. Then we resumed implementing this program.
Soon after the onset of the Great East Japan Earthquake, JRC youth in the Philippines whom we had met before telephoned us to ask if our JRC youth were safe. The PRC Headquarters presented T-shirts to the Fukushima Chapter. Before resuming this international program, our JRC youth told us that they hoped to express their gratitude for the assistance from the PRC and report to them about the status quo of Fukushima to the people in the Philippines.
■ After returning to Japan
The members who participated in the program made a report at the general assemblies of Fukushima Chapter and branches of Fukushima Prefecture. They strongly stated at these meetings that they hoped to make use of what they experienced in the Philippines in their future activities based on the JRC’s goals for attitude: “notice, think and act”. The high school teachers in charge of JRC activities and the students’ teachers said that the students’ experience was reflected in their school activities. We realized their positive change through the teachers’ reports. In 2014, Typhoon No. 30 (also known as Yolanda) hit the Philippines and the country suffered a huge damage. The students who had joined the program collected donations on December 24 and 25, 2014 in front of JR Fukushima Station. They called out to the passersby: “Let’s support the people of the Philippines who supported us during the Great East Japan Earthquake. It’s our turn.” When a big earthquake struck Nepal in May 2015, they collected donations again in front of the Fukushima Station with other members wo traveled all the way from Koriyama City and Iwaki city where they lived and who had also participated in the international program. They took the donations that they had gathered to the Fukushima Chapter.
The youth members joined the international program and traveled to the Philippines as JRC youth leaders of Fukushima Prefecture. They reported what they learned during their stay in the country to their colleague youth members back in Fukushima. Some members even expressed their future willingness to become a JRC adult leader. The program gave them a significant opportunity to have such hope. We are confident that their participation in the program will lead to better understanding and practicing of the Red Cross activities in the future.