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Feature: 50th Anniversary of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers
- Ceremonies were held in FY 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary around the world -

PhotoA scene from the ceremony held in Yokohama on Nov. 17, 2015

In December 1965, the first Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) departed for Laos. Since then, some 40,000 JOCVs (ages 20 to 39) have been sent to work in 88 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, Oceania and Eastern Europe, with the motive in mind of being helpful to people in developing countries. In addition to dispatching JOCVs, JICA's volunteer programs include Senior Volunteers (ages 40 to 69), as well as Youth Volunteers for Nikkei Communities and Senior Volunteers for Nikkei Communities, who provide cooperation for Japanese emigrant communities and relevant areas in Central and South America.

Living and working together with local residents, and speaking their language, dispatched volunteers have also been making efforts on enhancing mutual understanding as well as on self-help efforts. Their work and achievement have been highly praised. More things are expected from the volunteer program is expected further as an opportunity for human development to cope with globalization.

And in 2015, the JOCV program celebrated its 50th anniversary.

On Nov. 17, JICA held a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of JOCVs. It was attended by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and some 4,500 former volunteers and supporters.

In the second part, there were ethnic music performances and a performance of "Hitori Hitotsu," a song composed for the anniversary.

Many ceremonies and events to commemorate the 50th anniversary were held around the world. Volunteers reported their activities with gratitude to local residents for supporting and nurturing them. And attendants, including dignitaries and counterparts, expressed their gratitude for its activities and for the history of the volunteer program.

Here we present the scenes from ceremonies to celebrate the 50th anniversary held around the world by date, together with ceremonies for marking the memorial year in some countries since the first dispatch of volunteers.

1. Burkina Faso

PhotoJOCVs' "Yosakoi Soran" Japanese dance performance livens up the ceremony.

Date: Feb. 13, 2015

Venue: Ouagadougou

A ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary was held in Ouagadougou, together with celebrating the 15th anniversary of dispatching volunteers to Burkina Faso.

Even though JOCVs in Burkina Faso are small in number, they publicized their activities through speeches, exciting "Yosakoi Soran" Japanese dance performance and an exhibition of their works.

2. Colombia

PhotoA scene from the ceremony

Date: Feb. 18, 2015

Venue: Bogota

A ceremony was held in Bogota, together with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of dispatching volunteers to Colombia.

The ceremony served not only for attendants to deepen their understanding of the volunteer program, but also for volunteers themselves to reconfirm that their activities were matching real needs in Colombia.

3. Solomon Islands

PhotoA volunteer in the medical sector sets up a booth for a health checkup.

Date: June 21, 2015

Venue: Honiara

An event was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary and to promote Japanese culture. Some local residents stood a long time in front of panels displayed to present and former volunteers and their activities, and talked with joy about old times with some former volunteers.

4. Gabon

PhotoMaking Japanese rice cakes with an African-made mortar and pestle to celebrate Japan-Gabon exchange

Date and venue: June 26, 2015, Livreville

Date and venue: Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, Oyem

Date and venue: Feb. 12 to 13, Franceville

Ceremonies and events were held in three cities to celebrate both 50 years of JOCVs and the 10th anniversary of dispatching volunteers to Gabon. All events, prepared by volunteers with innovation and teamwork, were visited by many people. It served as an occasion for the people of Gabon to experience up close the appeal of Japan and volunteers' activities.

5. Tanzania

PhotoMidori Uno, first volunteer to Tanzania, gives speech during the ceremony.

Date: July 8, 2015

Venue: Dar es Salaam

During the ceremony, Midori Uno, the first volunteer to Tanzania, gave a speech. At a social gathering after the ceremony, active volunteers and people from Japanese firms exchanged opinions and opened the possibility for an all-Japan collaboration.

6. Saint Lucia

PhotoA volunteer in a Saint Lucian traditional costume gives a speech of gratitude.

Date: July 9, 2015

Venue: Rodneybay

A ceremony was held in Rodneybay, together with celebrating the 20th anniversary of dispatching volunteers to Saint Lucia. It was attended by the Saint Lucian prime minister. Among the many parts of the program, a speech made by a volunteer in the Creole language resulted in an uproar.

7. Jamaica

PhotoThe educational material "Calculation Time" and its application are presented during the ceremony.

Date: Oct. 8, 2015

Venue: Kingston

During the ceremony, a volunteer who created educational material to improve basic mathematics ability gave a presentation on those activities, together with other volunteers in the educational sector, a school principal and their students. Those in attendance were moved by their zeal.

8. Laos

PhotoFrom left, Ambassador to Laos Hiroyuki Kishino, Minister of Planning and Investment Somdy Douangdy, JICA Vice President Kae Yanagisawa, at the presenting of a bouquets of flowers

Date: Oct. 15, 2015

Venue: Vientiane

The first volunteers dispatched to Laos 50 years ago attended the ceremony for the 50th anniversary. They met again Laotian people and talked with them along with active volunteers.

9. Costa Rica

PhotoA sculpted doll modeled on a volunteer was given to him by a municipal office where he works.

Date: Nov. 11, 2015

Venue: San José

Some JICA volunteers gave presentations on their activities, including a volunteer who contributed to an agreement of cooperation between JICA and Japan's professional baseball team the Yomiuri Giants, another volunteer who worked for a waste management project aimed at encouraging local residents to naturally participate in recycling with joy. They were praised and some attendants were moved by their presentations.

10. Peru

PhotoA scene from the ceremony

Date: Nov. 16, 2015

Venue: Lima

The ceremony in Peru was held at Peru's International Cooperation Agency in a heartwarming atmosphere. The Peruvian general-director and other staff gave speech on the activities and roles of JICA volunteers. They also expressed their trust and gratitude.

11. Morocco

PhotoVolunteers sing and perform the Japanese folk song "Soran Bushi."

Date: Nov. 24, 2015

Venue: Rabat

In Morocco, Japanese culture has been drawing great interest. At the ceremony venue, some volunteers made sushi, others performed the Japanese folk song "Soran Bushi," which served to deepen attendants' understanding and sympathy to Japanese culture.

12. Cambodia

PhotoStudents of a college of education demonstrate a scientific experiment.

Date: Dec. 7, 2015

Venue: Phnom Penh

During the ceremony, bonds of friendships between the two countries that passed through eras of a civil war and confusion were presented in diverse forms. Participants renewed their hope for peace. News about former volunteers was one of the subjects that commanded the attention of attendants.

13. Honduras

PhotoThose in attendance enjoyed volunteers' "Soran Bushi" performance. Volunteers spent three months for its preparation.

Date: Dec. 8, 2015

Venue: Tegucigalpa

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the agreement for dispatching volunteers to Honduras, the ceremony was grandly held in Tegucigalpa, with the attendance of Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako of Japan.

14. Malawi

PhotoVolunteers and staff from their workplaces dance in a circle.

Date: Dec. 8, 2015

Venue: Lilongwe

When African music was played during the ceremony, volunteers and staff from their workplaces started dancing together, which was a memorable moment. And many attendants stopped by in front of posters displayed to present information about Japan.

15. China

PhotoActive volunteers wearing yukatas lead dancing to the Japanese folk song "Tanko Bushi." They also helped attendants wear yukatas.

Date: Jan. 8, 2016

Venue: Beijing

Attendants were impressed by a speech given by a former volunteer saying he developed a connection and ideas when he was working as a volunteer and has been contributing to further development of areas where he has been dispatched and also to Japan-China exchange.

16. Malaysia

PhotoMany former volunteers flew over from Japan.

Date: Jan. 11, 2016

Venue: Kuala Lumpur

The history of JICA volunteers in Malaysia crosses over Malaysia's economic development. The first volunteer gave a message saying he was helped by the broad-mindedness of Malaysian people 50 years ago when he was making efforts to be acclimated with local resident's lifestyle.

17. Ecuador

PhotoA volunteer gives a speech.

Date: Jan. 22, 2016

Venue: Quito

A ceremony was held to celebrate both 50 years of JOCVs and also the 25th anniversary of dispatching volunteers to Ecuador. Volunteers and JICA Ecuador office staff renewed their determination with regard to their future activities and business development in Ecuador.

18. Madagascar

PhotoVolunteers demonstrate Japanese cuisine to attendants.

Date: Feb. 19, 2016

Venue: Antananarivo

A large scale Japanese festival was organized. It was visited by more than 1,000 people and they enjoyed booths in which Japanese culture, such as calligraphy and origami, was demonstrated. Volunteers discovered that Japan is loved by the people of Madagascar.

19. Philippines

PhotoVolunteers make a presentation.

Date: Feb. 22, 2016

Venue: Manila

The year 2016 is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines. At the second part of the ceremony, all active volunteers took a platform and said they will build good relationships with the people of the Philippines and will make a continuous effort.

20. Kenya

PhotoA volunteer explains to an attendant his activities with a photo.

Date: Feb. 24, 2016

Venue: Nairobi

Started from national anthem and karate demonstration by Kenyan karate players, the first part of the ceremony was solemnly conducted. And the second part was full of friendly atmosphere, and attendants and volunteers interacted a lot with photos in their hands.


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