Promoting grass-roots international exchange
As an English class activity, my students and I decided to create a book to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, as well as celebrate Japan as the host of the G7 Summit 2016. Our city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, was one of the G7 host cities. The project showed how far Sendai had come since the disaster, in the words of the youth who had experienced this tragedy.
Little did we know it would exceed expectations and turn into a larger-than-life project. It eventually garnered interest and support from both the Japanese and Canadian governments.
The project received assistance from the Embassy of Canada to Japan, leading to a special print run of our book, Jump to Dream 2016 which has been distributed to significant destinations across Japan and Canada. My students received commendations for their efforts from both countries, as well as from the Ambassador of Japan to Canada Kenjiro Monji, and Christy Clark, the premier of British Columbia, my home province.
This is an important piece of work. It’s one of the rare instances where we can hear from the voices directly affected by the disaster. What makes it so rare is that the students wrote the majority of this book in English, so a wider audience is able to read their messages. It also shows that, even after tragedy, the resilience of our youth will always shine through and there is always hope for a better tomorrow.
As Ambassador Monji said in his wonderful letter to us, this book is a testament to the strong bonds and lasting friendship that can exist between countries. But, more important, it’s of great value to my students, who will remember this experience for the rest of their lives. I could not be prouder and more humbled to have had the opportunity to be their teacher.
This is the second time that I am on the JET Programme. The first time, I was as an assistant language teacher in the peaceful little city of Mikasa (2016 population some 9,056), in Hokkaido Prefecture. After graduate school, I returned to the Japanese government initiative, this time as a coordinator for international relations in Yokohama.
Yokohama is a lively city, and the International Affairs Bureau is a busy workplace. Its close ties with French sister city Lyon mean I have been able to make use of my French language skills.
Much of my work involves translating and proofreading documents to and from Yokohama City to its various partner cities and to embassies across Japan. I also help with international visits, providing interpretation assistance, writing speeches, and coaching city leaders to help them promote Yokohama at international events. I have also been building a curriculum for English classes for the municipal government, with an eye on the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
My experience continues to be very rewarding, and I have had the privilege of meeting many globally minded Japanese, working at City Hall and in the business world. They include Fumiko Hayashi, mayor of Yokohama and one of the few female mayors in Japan.
The time I have spent on the JET Programme has been enriching, and working in a different culture has opened my eyes to other ways of thinking and seeing the world.