The Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) sent six Junior Ambassadors (JAs) to the 29th annual Asian-Pacific Children’s Convention (APCC) in Fukuoka, Japan, July 13 – 25, 2017.
The APCC has been hosted by the Fukuoka City government since 1989. It was started to celebrate the city’s 100 anniversary. Now in its 29th year, the APCC has hosted over 10,000 students from all across the Asia-Pacific region and other countries across Europe and South America. The mission of the APCC is to promote international relationships among children so that they will become adults with a sense of social responsibility for the world.
After six months of homework, research, and JASH’s Junior Ambassador training program, the six JAs departed on their long-awaited journey to Fukuoka accompanied by chaperone David Nakanishi and Peace Ambassador (PA) Ava Williams.
Upon their arrival in Fukuoka, the JAs stayed at the Marine House camp, where they were able to meet students from over 40 different delegations from all across the world. They participated in a number of exchange programs and teambuilding activities to begin to bridge the gap between people and cultures. These activities helped to deepen the JA’s understanding of cultural diversity and the need for compassion for those with different ideas and perspectives. In addition to meeting students from across the Asia-Pacific region, the JAs also got to meet the “waku-waku” students, local students from Fukuoka, in an all-day exchange program where they were split up and placed in six different groups for games and a noren-making competition.
After leaving the Marine House Camp, having made new friends and precious memories, the JAs visited Toko Elementary school where they performed a hula and two Hawaiian oli (chants) for the entire school. That afternoon the JAs met their host families and began their one-week home-stay where they experienced a number of fun and new activities including enjoying a summer festival, visiting Hakata Port Tower, nagashi somen (flowing somen through bamboo), watching fireworks, visiting local amusement parks, and participating in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
As the JAs enjoyed their camp, the Peace Ambassadors including Ava Williams, representative from Bridge Club Hawaii, departed for a separate camp that focused on leadership development and strengthening regional Bridge Clubs (alumni organizations for former JAs). At camp, Ava shared her ideas about how to facilitate better exchanges between Bridge Clubs and how to promote strong relationships between other countries.
Towards the end of their home-stay, all the JAs and PAs from the APCC gathered at Kyuden Kinen Gymnasium for the “We are the Bridge Festival 2017,” where they got to reconnect with all the friends they had made a week earlier at the Marine House camp. At the festival the JAs gave a special performance, reflecting Hawaii’s local culture by performing a hula and an oli, taught by Kumu Hula Blaine Kamalani Kia.
The delegation returned to Honolulu on July 25 and was greeted by anxious parents. Later that week JASH held a debriefing workshop to allow delegates to share their stories, reflect on their experiences, and think about their next steps moving forward. The JAs expressed how the trip has impacted their lives with Yuuka Brown saying, “this program is a really good opportunity to meet new people and experience real life in Japan. And you’ll make a lot of really good friends and learn about yourself.” Parents also saw a change in their students with LiAnn Shigemi reflecting, “My son had a wonderful experience through this entire process. I have seen much growth in the time that he was away.”
JASH would like to thank all of the wonderful staff and incredible volunteers of the APCC. JASH would also like to thank all of the volunteer host families and hopes that through the Bridge Club Hawaii, the JAs can stay connected with their new friends and continue to be global citizens.
If you know of a student who may want to participate in this program in future years, please contact David Nakanishi, APCC Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.