This past July, a Malawian participant who just arrived in Japan asked that he wished to contact with two JOCVs whom he met in his homeland almost three decades ago. JICA Chugoku searched the former JOCVs in response and found these two ex-volunteers’ contacts. During his study tour in Tokyo, the reunion came true.
Seddah-san (Mr.Seddah DZIMBASEKWA) who came to participate in “Operation and Maintenance of Urban Water Supply System” Course handed a note to front desk at JICA Chugoku immediately after arrival in Japan and said “I’ll be more than happy if I could contact with these two Japanese.” In the note there were full names of two Japanese men. The staff who attended was surprised “He pronounced those names so clearly I was able to catch them so easily.” It showed how important these people were to Seddah-san. These two people are: Mr.Matsuoka Yoichi and Mr.Tsukada Masato who were former JOCVs and teachers for Seddah-san at his secondary school where he learned so many things from them when he was 15 years old.
In 1982 Matsuoka-san arrived as a science/mathematics teacher in a secondary school in Malawi where they had shortage of teachers. Following 1983 Tsukada-san joined. In those days pupils who graduated from primary schools were less than half of those who had been admitted and just a handful students with high marks went on to secondary schools. Tsukada-san currently working at a lower secondary school in Akita looked back on that time “I remember Malawian students’ twinkles in their eyes in learning that was different from Japanese students. They were filled with sheer desire to learn.”
Seddah-san remembers of the first time meeting with Matsuoka-san and Tsukada-san vividly. At the beginning he was anxious and wondering “It may be difficult to learn from some teachers come from Japan.” However, their lessons were quite different from the conventional teaching practices in which just used to give students tasks. Seddah-san continued excitedly, “Their teaching method was really good. Especially they made my eyes open to fascinating mathematics. We had productive days. Mathematics became my favorite subject and I found the same contents in the entrance examination at the college exactly the same as they had taught us at the secondary school.”
Seddah-san has been working at Central Water Board in Malawi. He emphasized “I felt close with both Matsuoka-san and Tsukada-san who talked to us in friendly manner outside school as well. I learned how to communicate with others from their attitudes. Still now, the importance of mutual respect and building good human relationship that I learned from them helps me at work. ”
Seddah-san and both former teachers got along so well and he taught Chichewa to them, the local language which was essential for living in Malawi.
Matsuoka-san reflected on those days, “The days in Malawi passed so quickly where people loved peace and lived friendly. I never had any uncomfortable moments there.”
In those days, there was no internet and telecommunication was inconvenient, so correspondence was cut after two teachers left for Japan upon completing their two years term, said Seddah-san. However, the memory of Matsuoka-san and Tsukada-san who taught very important things for his life never left his mind even after advancing to higher education and getting employed. Such prayer would have fulfilled, Seddah-san came to Japan to attend the training. He got contacts of both Matsuoka-san and Tsukada-san and a reunion after almost 30 years came true!
Although time was limited, they, three of them hugged, shook hands each other, and got updated on their lives. They had really wonderful time together looking at the photographs in those days and conversation turned into Chchewa before they realized it. In a moment, they returned to be teachers and their student.
“I would not be the way I am now without you. You raised me up this far.” Seddah-san conveyed his deep gratitude.
In the unexpected reunion with former student, Matsuoka-san and Tsukada-san were filled with deep emotion and gratitude as well. Each person looked back and said “We didn’t have enough time”, “It was so short like in a blink of an eye.”
“I already reported about our reunion to old classmates in Malawi. Immediately on that day. We’ve decided to invite them to Malawi for sure.” said Seddah-san, in a smile. “I am very happy! I really am. I’m so grateful for my organization, JICA personnel, all of them.” We were impressed by Seddah-san who was blissfully looking back on the reunion.
Tsukada-san once had been engaged in volunteering when he was at university thought that JOCV should be the pinnacle of volunteers so he applied for it. “If I didn’t go to Malawi, I may have had a career as an ordinary teacher.” Reflecting on the reunion with Seddah-san, “I felt envious of other JOCVs who left tangible achievement like bridges and roads before returned to Japan. To be honest, sometimes I wondered what I had left in Malawi. However, now I feel how lucky I’ve been as a teacher to know our 2 years over there was really meaningful for the student.” said Tsukada-san.
Currently Matsuoka-san has been serving as a teacher at a school for special needs in Aichi prefecture, sometimes talks about Malawi to his students. “Malawian students were not at good at folding origami paper in an awkward way (chuckles) but they were sincere and had strong ability. I am happy if I could lend a hand to their brilliant accomplishment even a little bit. 2 years in Malawi was a precious treasure for me. If someone is not sure about applying to JOCV, I’d like to say definitely go for it. I’m certain they can find a treasure for life.” said Matsuoka-san.
“Warm heart of Africa” - Malawi.
Cordial interaction woven among JOCVs and a local boy has brought about such incredible moments almost 30 years later.