A bidirectional volunteer programme with the AU; exploring new partnerships with Africa (26, March 2013)

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) dispatched its first volunteers to Africa, Kenya 47 years ago. In an attempt to strengthen the partnerships established through the 12,000 volunteers dispatched to grass root organizations in Africa, Japan Overseas Cooperative Association (JOCA) started the JOCA-AU Youth Volunteer Corps collaboration programme. Specifically, JOCA invited African Union Volunteers to participate in disaster recovery programmes and international cultural exchange events with JOCA in Iwate prefecture.

President of JOCA, Yozo Kaneko
JOCA President Kaneko, a former volunteer for Ethiopia
expresses his gratitude.

The volunteers arrived in Japan with an AU officer on March 17th. At the orientation on March 18th, the volunteers were impressed to hear that the president of JOCA, Yozo Kaneko had volunteered in Ethiopia to monitor the outbreak of smallpox.

Yozo Kaneko expressed his gratitude towards African countries that had supported Japan during the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Encouraging the volunteers, he said “I believe that your volunteer activities will greatly help revitalize the communities of the disaster areas and Iwate prefecture. I hope that you will be able to meet many people and develop a better understanding of Japanese culture and society during your three months stay. May this be an unforgettable experience for you."

AU officer, Mr. Etim
AU officer, Mr Etim expresses his hops for the programme.

This is the first time African Union volunteers will work outside of the African continent. The African Union representative and person in charge of the AU volunteer programme, Mr. Emmanuel Etim, expressed his gratitude to JOCA for hosting the volunteers on behalf of the chairperson of AU, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and also noted how he was looking forward to receiving the final report from Japan.

Mr. Etim also expressed his hopes for the programme stating that “although we started the AU volunteer programme within the African continent, we had been looking for programme opportunities to help develop a more international mindset in the participant volunteers. Now that we have the opportunity to volunteer in a developed country, we hope to use it to further develop the AU volunteer programme”  

AU volunteers
Volunteers introduces themselves.

This collaboration programme was conceptually included in JOCA's “JOCV as a national strategy” declared in 2009. One of the main focuses in this strategy was to assist JOCV hosting countries to establish volunteer cooperation programmes. As Japan has already established good relationships with developing countries through the JOCV programme, JOCA plans to strengthen these relationships through inviting volunteers from developing countries to come to Japan.

JOCA was finally able to host the volunteer this March after JOCA staff visited the AU head office in Ethiopia last year and exchanged a memorandum of understanding at the beginning of this year.

The participating volunteers come from Mozambique, Rwanda, Kenya, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. Their ages range from 25 to 31. After a week’s orientation and training, they will leave for Iwate prefecture at the end of March. During April and May they will be split into two groups that will volunteer in the cities of Tono and Kamaishi. They will work with JOCA staff in a number of disaster recovery programmes such as “The Kamaishi S-cram School”, a study room supported by former African JOCVs, for Junior High School students living in temporary housing.


African Union

African Union Youth Volunteer Corps

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