TOMODACHI Generation Turns Disaster into Opportunity

TOMODACHI Generation Turns Disaster into Opportunity

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Christian Holm
March 04, 2015

The second Building the TOMODACHI Generation program drew to a close at The Washington Center on Friday, Feb. 27. Five teams composed of American and Japanese students presented capstone projects that proposed ways civil society can create social change in Japan’s Tōhoku region.


Each group’s presentation focused on integrating nonprofit, private and government entities to improve areas affected by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. A panel of judges awarded American students from two teams, Fuku Mirai and Itadaki, with an opportunity to travel to and volunteer in the Tōhoku region with their Japanese counterparts later in 2015.


The Fuku Mirai team presented a plan to combat post-traumatic stress disorder among citizens, particularly children; one out of every three children in the region suffer from PTSD. The proposal included counseling sessions for families and training for teachers that would help them detect early warning signs of PTSD in their students.


The Itadaki group focused its project on older citizens. Combining corporate funding to support student volunteers, the proposal sought to find ways to give the elderly tools to access a number of internet communication platforms.


Akane Meguro, a junior at Japan’s University of Tsukuba, says the tsunami’s devastation has profoundly affected Japanese citizens her age – and those in the generation to follow.


“The tsunami changed our lives forever,” she says, adding that implementing the kind of civil society partnerships she and her classmates discussed over the past two weeks is critical to moving Japan forward.  “Without it, an entire generation will be at risk.”


Yoshiaki Abe, operating advisor for the U.S.-Japan Research Institute, applauded the efforts of students. He also emphasized that cross-cultural partnerships like those proposed by the Building the TOMODACHI Generation program are needed everywhere across the globe.


“Events like the Tōhoku disaster are not just disasters for Japan, but for all humans,” he said. “This model of cooperation gives us hope for what any two nations can accomplish when they integrate their strengths.”


Judging the presentaions was Brandon R. Mita, attorney at Littler Mendelson, PC, Christopher Joseph Cook, chief compliance officer for Keel Point Advisors and Katsuichi Uchida, president of the U.S.-Japan Research Institute


The Building the TOMODACHI Generation program brings 20 college students from top Japanese universities to Washington, D.C., for a cross-cultural study opportunity that builds critical leadership skills. Japanese students and their U.S. counterparts also learn to develop cross-sector partnerships and use civil society as a tool to address social challenges that occur after a crisis or natural disaster. The two-week program is generously supported by the TOMODACHI Fund for Exchanges donors, Toyota Motor Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hitachi, Ltd. and Morgan Stanley.


To view photos from TOMODACHI, click here

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