July 20, 2022
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) in a turnover ceremony yesterday highlighted the Japanese volunteers' vital role in further boosting Japan-Philippines close relations and in supporting sustainable and inclusive development in the Philippines.
After about two years interval due to COVID-19, the first batch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) to be dispatched in the new normal is now ready to embark on their work in their respective organizations and communities. JICA declares "we are back now."
"The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic disrupted most development programs including international volunteer services. In 2020, about 80 to 90% of international volunteers were evacuated back to their home countries," said PNVSCA Executive Director Donald James Gawe. PNVSCA is the Philippine government's lead agency that coordinates volunteer programs, such as the vigorous JICA's volunteer program, as a development strategy.
Gawe said it is a challenge for the international volunteering community to reimagine ways of adapting to the new normal. "The return of the JOCVs this year is a welcome development for PNVSCA. Local partner institutions have been benefiting from the dynamic work of JICA volunteers through local development projects, while strengthening the cooperation and relationship between Japan and the Philippines," he said.
Over the years, the hard work of JOCVs could be seen through innovative local projects that made social impact to local communities in various areas like design, agribusiness, health, disaster risk reduction and management, among others, and helping them achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.
"I am excited to share my knowledge and experience to help elevate culinary courses related to Japanese cuisine with Filipino teachers and students, so that nutrition conditions could be considered, too," said MIYAGAMA Yoshimi, one of the JOCVs who will be deployed this year. She was a JOCV in Thailand many years ago and is now assigned to train teachers in Japanese cooking techniques at the Rizal Experimental Station and Pilot School for Cottage Industries (RESPSCI) in Pasig City.
"I have always been fascinated with JOCV work and look forward to helping Filipino teachers improve their course design related to computer education," shared another JICA volunteer SEKIGUCHI Takuya who has been an information technology engineer in Japan and will be sharing his knowledge on computer education to instructors at the Rosario Campus of Cavite State University.
The third JOCV, KUBO Jun is a returning volunteer whose work was interrupted once in 2020 because of the pandemic. "Volunteering again is one way to pay forward the kindness I received from Filipinos when I first worked as a JOCV in 2019 before the pandemic. I have also worked with persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Japan previously, and through my volunteer work this time, hopefully, I can help expand possibilities for PWDs here," added KUBO. He will be assisting the Association of Differently-Abled Persons in Iloilo Multi-Purpose Cooperative in marketing their woodwork products.
JICA Chief Representative SAKAMOTO Takema thanked the PNVSCA and local partner institutions for their support to the volunteers. "Today, we are making history to open the new chapter of our partnership, as we now resume sending JOCVs again to the Philippines. JOCVs are a special part of JICA's development assistance. They are like frontliners contributing to the needs of our partners to work in diverse fields and share Japanese knowhow and best practices to Filipinos. They are bestowed with the privilege and responsibility of being ‘Grassroots Ambassadors of Goodwill', and I believe they can achieve these purposes," added SAKAMOTO.
For information on the JOCV Program, please visit this link:
Seated from left - PNVSCA Program Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Division Chief Ela Victoria F. Sarmago, JOCVs SEKIGUCHI, MIYAGAWA, and KUBO; and JICA Chief Representative SAKAMOTO with other officials from local partner institutions and JICA