Following the footsteps of the students from Middle Tennessee State University, 1,000 high school students from across the United States will be volunteering in the disaster affected Tohoku, in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Ibaraki Prefectures. Activities will include clean-up and planting trees, according to the Japanese government foundation who invited them.
From Japan Times (6/10/2012):
1,000 U.S. high school students to start volunteer work in tsunami zones
Around 1,000 high school students and youths from the United States will visit the Tohoku region in three groups from Sunday to carry out volunteer work in four disaster-hit prefectures at the invitation of the Japan Foundation.
Each group will stay in the country for a fortnight and engage in various exchanges with locals in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, according to the foundation, which specializes in cultural exchanges.
Participants in the program will come from 40 schools across the United States, including areas affected by natural disasters in the past, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The last group will arrive in late July.
Some of the students are from the former schools of two young American teachers killed by the March 2011 tsunami — Taylor Anderson from Virginia and Montgomery Dickson from Alaska — who were teaching English at schools in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakata in Iwate. Those students will visit both cities, which were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
All those taking part will also visit Kobe to witness the city’s recovery from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
The above Japan Times article doesn’t say much about the students’ activities beyond “cultural exchanges”, but the Foundation’s press release does.
Kyodo News (Japanese) had a PR press release from the Japan Foundation, a government corporation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in April this year announcing the event. According to the PR release the project is called “Kizuna strengthening project”. The high school students from all over the US will visit Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and stay for 2 weeks and do volunteer works (cleaning, planting trees, etc.) and mix with local residents in various activities to experience how the recovery is taking place. The first batch of students will stay in the region from June 10 to 23, the second batch from July 1 to 14, and the third (and the last) one from July 8 and 21.
The Foundation and the ministry behind the Foundation are hoping that these young impressionable students will return to the US and start disseminating the positive, happy images of Japan’s wonderful recovery from the earthquake and tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011 to “counter baseless rumors and further the understanding of the situation in Japan by the US citizens” (my translation, from their PR piece).
I almost forgot – this “Kizuna strengthening project” will invite the total 10,000 high school and college students from the US and Asia-Pacific region over 1 year period.
For your information, the original meaning of “kizuna” in Japanese is a “rope that ties down the legs of a horse so that it cannot escape”. Some say it is to tie down a cow.