The TOMODACHI Initiative (TOMODACHI) and SoftBank Corp. (SoftBank) are pleased to announce that the 100 participants for the “TOMODACHI Summer 2014 SoftBank Leadership Program” have been selected.
This program, which is funded by SoftBank, will start on July 22nd, 2014, and end on August 12th, 2014. High school students from the three prefectures affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures, will spend three weeks, free of charge, at the University of California, Berkeley, where they will participate in an intensive course that will teach them about global leadership skills and community service. Furthermore, because SoftBank would like these participants to use the experience and skills gained in the U.S. to get involved in Project Management in local charitable activities, each participant will receive his or her own iPad.
This year marks the third time that TOMODACHI and SoftBank have collaborated to offer this program. The aim of this program is to support high school students who have been attempting to overcome difficult situations by providing them with the opportunity to broaden their horizons through exposure to different cultures and in turn pursue their dreams.
The participants will learn about how they can make a positive impact on their local communities at the Y-PLAN “Youth-Plan, Learn, Act, Now!” problem-solving workshop. Additionally, they will deepen their understanding of American culture and society through homestays, volunteer activities, and interactions with American High school students. They will also assess their life goals attend career seminars, hosted by Japanese citizens living in the U.S.
Some of the past participants of this program have put what they learned at Y-PLAN into practical use and done things that have genuinely helped their local communities. For example, one high school student set up a travel agency in her hometown while planning a post-tsunami re-construction event. TOMODACHI and SoftBank will provide opportunities for participants to apply the knowledge that they gleaned in the U.S. to help the tsunami relief efforts, while wholeheartedly supporting the proactive efforts of participants to make positive contributions to their communities.
This year, we are aiming to work more closely with the students by inviting six NPO leaders from the three prefectures affected by the disaster, in order to allow the participants to have more intimate interactions. After the program, the NPO leaders will help to promote the students' projects by supporting them on-site, while simultaneously supporting the legacy of this program and encouraging last year's participants to get involved as alumni.
We also received the opinions of the students who have been selected to participate in this year's program, of those who supported the program in the U.S. and in Japan, and of last year's alumni.
Moeka Matsumoto of Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture (2014 Participant)
Due to the nuclear accident, all Hirono Town residents were forced to evacuate. Moeka experienced two years of life as an evacuee. She was able to think positively thanks to the warmth of the people at the evacuation site, making her thankful to a variety of individuals. After the evacuation order was lifted, she returned to her hometown and became inspired by the various activities being carried out by high school student TOMODACHI Program alumni to bring vibrancy back to their communities. Moeka says, “Even though the evacuation order has been lifted, many of my acquaintances and residents have not returned. By participating in the Program, I want to find town planning hints that will help bring everyone back.”
Daisuke Kaga of Otsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture (On-site and Post-program Supporter)
Through his activities of providing educational guidance and mental health-care to high school students affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, Daisuke feels firsthand the strong affinity affected youth have for their communities and their will to take action to transform them. Daisuke, who believes the issues facing the affected areas should be quickly be faced by all of Japan and that the solutions require a global perspective, comments, “Through this Program, the students gain a greater sense of self-efficacy and I would like to study how it helps broaden their range of activities. After returning, I would also like to utilize this knowledge in the affected areas.”
Asuka Numazu of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture (2012 Alumni)
Through her participation in the 2012 Program, Asuka not only studied leadership and town planning, but also the importance of bonds between people and the beauty studying while enjoying oneself. Under the goal of “Become a person who can contribute to society and people's lives by fully exercising my strengths,” she started volunteer activities and organized Junior and High school groups, among other things. Asuka, who had the dream of becoming a nursery school teacher when she was an elementary school student, after broadening her horizons through her experience in the US, now wants to pursue a vocation that “brings smiles to the children of the world.” As an alumni participant, she comments with advice for the newly participating high school students, “I want to convey to them that the many connections they make with those they meet and their experience in America will be a great asset to them.”