Fifteen students and three chaperones comprised this year’s Asian Pacific Children’s Convention (APCC) Mission Project delegation, visiting Honolulu, Hawaii from Wednesday, March 25 to Monday, March 30, 2015. Students from Japan were able to engage in the melting-pot culture and natural beauty of Hawaii through 15 volunteer host families. This is the fifth time the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) has hosted a Mission Project delegation from Fukuoka. In addition to Hawaii, other Mission Project delegates from Fukuoka were sent to Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Korea, Maldives, Nepal, Palau, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
Established in 1994 by the APCC in Fukuoka, the goal of the Mission Project is to enhance Japanese children’s understanding of their Asian-Pacific neighbors by learning about their lifestyles, cultures, and customs through first-hand experiences. They do this by sending delegates to various Asian-Pacific countries. Here in Hawaii, students from ages 10 to 17 stayed with host families selected by JASH and were able to experience local culture, food, excursions to the beach, sightseeing, and many other fun activities. A highlight of the visit was the opportunity for Japanese students to attend school with their American host brothers or sisters. JASH would like to extend a warm mahalo to all of the principals of the hosting schools for opening their doors and classrooms and warmly welcoming the Japanese students.
Each summer, the APCC generously sponsors Hawaii’s Junior Ambassadors (JAs) for a global youth camp and home stay with host families in Fukuoka. JASH selects those JAs and spends six months preparing them for their trip to Fukuoka in July. The Mission Project allows JASH to reciprocate the hospitality that our own JAs experience in Japan.
JASH staff greeted the delegation on the morning of March 25th in the traditional Hawaiian style—giving lei to each delegate and chaperone—and escorted them to the Honolulu International Airport Conference Center, where delegates finally met their host families at the JASH sponsored Welcome Ceremony. Many of the delegates had been in contact with their host families a few weeks prior to arriving in Hawaii, so everyone was anxious to finally meet face to face. The Welcome Ceremony was a memorable first event, thanks especially to Deputy Consul General of Japan Koichi Maruyama who gave welcome remarks to the delegates.
JASH also sponsored an Appreciation Party for the host families and Japanese students at the Oahu Veterans Center on Friday, March 27th. In addition to the host families and delegates, about 20 members of Bridge Club Hawaii (APCC Alumni Association) and five of the 2015 JAs attended the party as well. It was an evening of good food and laughter as Japanese delegates shared their talents with the audience and Dori Kim, Shayna Kim, and Michelle Buck gave special hula performances. Speeches by the delegates as well as stories from host families were especially meaningful for everyone who attended. On the evening of March 29th, host families said their tearful goodbyes as they dropped off their host students to return to Japan the next day. In just five days, host families became second families to their host students, and this was evident through the smiles and warm hugs exchanged by the students and families on this final day.
JASH would like to extend and very huge “thank you” to the 15 host families for providing the visiting students from Fukuoka once-in-a-lifetime experiences they will cherish forever. This program would not have been possible without their generosity and warm aloha spirit. JASH would also like to thank APCC Program Director Elizabeth Stanton-Barrera and Mission Project Coordinator Kathryn Murata for all of their outstanding work in leading this program.