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Building Friendships with Japan

August 31, 2012

By Nicole Cook, Director of Short Term Programs

CCI was delighted to welcome 65 Japanese students this past August as part of the Tomodachi initiative. Tomodachi, which means “friend” in Japanese, is a public-private partnership supporting Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake. The initiative seeks to invest in the next generation of Japanese and Americans in ways that strengthen cultural and economic ties, and deepen the friendship between the United States and Japan over the long-term.

In cooperation with our partner office, EIL Japan, CCI welcomed 4 groups of students from the Tohoku region of Japan to stay in different communities across the U.S.  The students stayed with volunteer host families and participated in English classes as well as cultural and recreational activities.

Three of the groups were funded by Coca Cola and one was funded by Mitsubishi Financial Group .

Whisper Teel, a CCI local coordinator who led a group in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, commented on the educational aspect: “I, along with everyone else the students came in contact with, learned a lot about Japan, the culture, and their personal stories about the Tsunami,” Whisper said.

Students at all sites participated in a Greenheart service project; in Kentucky, the students packaged over 200 food boxes for “Feeding America.”

Sarah Dickey, a host for one of the students who stayed in Burlington, Vermont, said that she was very happy with the motivation and attitude of all the students. “My host daughter made things easy for me, ” she said.

The students in Vermont commented on the beauty of the area (and also the difficulty in hiking!), though they were rewarded with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Bill and Agnes Cermak of Erie, Pennsylvania, said that the students “brought much joy and happiness to their entire family.”

The Grimes family of Carlsbad, California said that the experience was “life-changing.”

A special thanks goes out to all of the generous host families of this program, as well the CCI local coordinators involved: John Need, John Schultz, Whisper Teel, and Sarah Gray.

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