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November 1, 2018

Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan Talk Informally With Returned JOCVs and an NJV

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) and a Youth Volunteer for Nikkei Communities (NJV) who have finished their two years of activity in the countries they were sent to and returned to Japan had the honor of talking informally with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan at the Imperial Palace on Sept. 26.

Their Majesties have been interested in the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers since the launch of the volunteer initiative in 1965. Since 1995, both volunteers about to be sent abroad and representatives of volunteers who have returned to Japan have been meeting with the Emperor and Empress. Since 1996, representatives of return volunteers have received the opportunity to report on their activities in the foreign countries where they served.

Seven JOCVs and one NJV back from being dispatched to countries in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Africa met their highnesses. Before this informal conversation, they met with JICA President Shinichi Kitaoka at JICA headquarters in Tokyo.

photoFrom left in the front row are Satoko Iha, Saki Okita, JICA President Shinichi Kitaoka, Ryoko Taniguchi and Kiko Nishiguchi. In the back row from left are Takeshi Matsumura, Kaito Onishi, Naohiro Nagao, Hiroyuki Ando and Mika Yamamoto, director general of the Secretariat of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers.

Physical therapy for children and an Uzbek-language maternal and child health handbook

photoWalking practice for a child with a disability

Kaito Onishi (a physical therapist, age 29, from Mie prefecture) worked at a children's social adjustment center in Fergana, Uzbekistan, as a physical therapist. He was the first JOCV at the center. His achievements included performing rehabilitation for more than 50 children a month, introducing a home program for families and creating various self-help equipment. He also increased the understanding of the people around him. In addition, he learned about the maternal and child health situation and created an Uzbek version of the maternal and child health handbook, which is being prepared for publication.

Coaching swimmers on the Cambodian Swimming Federation's national team

photoCoaching the swimmers from poolside (Photo by Masayori Ishikawa)

Saki Okita (occupation swimming, age 26, from Saitama prefecture) was sent to the Cambodia Swimming Federation in Phnom Penh. She analyzed the abilities and emotional strength of members of the national team and strengthened their spirits and technique little by little. As a result, the team improved and was ranked fourth in Southeast Asia. She also participated in many JICA volunteer PR activities, promoting their volunteer activities to the people of Japan and Cambodia.

Using an app and weather observation data to send easy-to-understand forecasts to islanders

photoTakeshi Matsumura with children after a disaster risk reduction educational activity at an elementary school. (Mr. Matsumura is wearing purple.)

Takeshi Matsumura (occupation computer technology, age 42, from Oita prefecture) was sent to a meteorological office on Upolu island in Samoa. There, he transferred technology related to the maintenance of an automatic meteorological data observation system. He also worked on increasing public awareness of the importance of disaster risk reduction, introducing a tsunami experience app, developing a disaster early warning app, automating the updating of the office's Facebook page and website and improving the quality of the meteorological office's services. These efforts significantly contributed to citizens' disaster readiness. The warning app was made available for free, and many people are using it.

Passing on Japanese culture through the Japanese language, the sanshin and migration education

photoSatoko Iha, second from left, teaches the lower grades of a school about peace.

Satoko Iha (occupation elementary education, age 36, from Okinawa prefecture) contributed to improving lessons and classroom management by assisting with classes, putting on research classes for teachers and holding in-school training at elementary and junior high schools in a Nikkei settlement in Okinawa city, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia. Making the most of being sent to a local government, she began an exchange of letters and photos between the Nikkei settlement Okinawa in Bolivia and Okinawa prefecture in Japan and implemented activities that will contribute to the future of the settlement through career education for the children.

Increasing awareness of the importance of disaster risk reduction

photoLearning how to transport an injured person using a stretcher fashioned out of a blanket. (Ryoko Taniguchi is at left.)

Ryoko Taniguchi (occupation community development, age 30, from Shizuoka prefecture) was sent to the city hall of Talcahuano, Chile. In a major earthquake and tsunami that occurred in February 2010, 80 percent of the residents of this city lost their homes. Ms. Taniguchi worked on a disaster risk reduction campaign aimed at elementary schools and area residents, exhibited photographs and essays related to the earthquake, and labored to increase awareness of disaster risk reduction. In addition to teaching classes, she worked to create and improve a disaster risk reduction program that matches the characteristics of the region.

Teaching not just the fun aspects of school events, but also their educational significance

photoA mock cavalry battle in preparation for Sports Day. (Kiko Nishiguchi is standing.)

Kiko Nishiguchi (occupation elementary education, age 25, from Osaka prefecture) worked on aesthetic sensibility education for children centered on physical education, as well as drawing and manual arts, at an elementary school managed by the municipal board of education in Mono Department, southwest Benin. Regarding physical education, Ms. Nishiguchi collaborated with 40 teachers to plan and put on Sports Days at two schools a total of three times, and some 1,500 children participated. As for drawing and manual arts, she put on a teaching workshop using a manual for assisting with teaching drawing and manual arts created by a JOCV in the education field. She created opportunities for experiencing school events of various educational significances.

Putting on physical education classes at a rehabilitation facility and working to improve work quality

photoWarming up in a physical education class. (Hiroyuki Ando is third from left.)

Hiroyuki Ando (occupation youth activities, age 33, from Hyogo prefecture) worked to develop sociality and healthy minds and bodies in boys living at a boarding rehabilitation facility in Kirinyaga County, Kenya. He used physical education and after-school sports to help the boys, who had committed minor offenses. He created a bulletin board display to introduce various careers as part of his work on vocational education, put up photos of the boys learning for their parents, and endeavored with other departments of the facility to improve the quality of their work.

Contributing to editing a commemorative publication at an organization that does scientific research on Japanese emigration

photoNaohiro Nagao holds a commemorative publication meeting. (He is seated second from right.)

Naohiro Nagao (occupation sociology and cultural anthropology, age 40, from Aichi prefecture) worked as a Youth Volunteer for Nikkei Communities at a public-benefit corporation that carries out scientific research activities on the theme of Japanese emigration in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He also was involved in editing the history of the research institute for its 50th anniversary. He was in charge of a series of tasks from gathering reference materials to analysis, writing and proofreading. He was quick to establish a commemorative publication editorial committee, and as a result of his innovations such as clarifying the roles of each committee member, the committee succeeded in publishing the history during his tenure.

After the informal conversation, a briefing was held a JICA Headquarters and participants talked about their impressions: "The wide range of views of their Majesties was impressive," said one. "Their kind words of thanks for my work and interest in my career in Japan since returning were a great encouragement to me," another said.

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