Volunteers greatly change the perception of “Africa” --Volunteer activities and accomplishments presented at the TICAD 5 conference (Jun 4th 2013)

In March 2013, JOCA launched the JOCA-AU volunteer collaboration program in collaboration with the African Union Commission. Former AU volunteers came to Japan from countries of which Japan has dispatched over one third of its volunteers to partner with former JOCV volunteers to help revitalize the disaster areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The 7 young Africans worked in the disaster area of Kamaishi and disaster relief logistical support base of Tono for about 2 months and then presented their activities and accomplishments at the official side event (cohosted by JOCA and the AUC) of the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 5) on May 31st.

JOCA president Yozo KANEKO
Mr Kaneko, JOCA chairperson, Opening Speech

In his opening speech, Mr Yozo Kaneko, chairperson of JOCA, stated that “volunteer cooperation programs are not only valuable as humanitarian endeavors supporting a developing country’s socio-economical growth but also valuable for developing human resources and global mindedness in the collaborators of the program. The Japan Overseas Cooperative Association has encouraged and supported developing countries that host JOCV volunteers to establish their own national volunteer cooperation and other youth volunteer programs for nation building by native/local people through various initiatives such as “The Malawi Farmers Self-Sufficiency Aid Project” and “The Laos School Beautification Project”. JOCA would like to continue to support these kind of movements as the establishment of a national volunteer cooperation program is beneficial both for developing a countries concept of ownership in socio-economical development as well as for the training of the personnel involved in the international volunteer activities.”

Dr Toshiko ABE,
Dr Toshiko Abe, Parliamentary Vice Minister
for Foregin Affairs of Japan

Following, Ms Toshiko Abe, parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs said, “I have heard good reports about the 7 volunteers, and how as the first AU volunteers outside of Africa they volunteered in the disaster areas of Kamaishi city and disaster relief logistical support base of Tono city. I hear that they not only volunteered in helping farmers with agricultural tasks and chopping of firewood, but also held events for primary and junior high school children to introduce them to the countries of Africa. I would like to thank our 7 friends as I am know it was very meaningful for our children who are the next generation of Japan to feel and understand that the whole world is looking out for them and that the disaster area is even connected to the furthest away countries of Africa.” 

Dr Hakim, AUC Director

Next, Dr Abdul Hakim, the director of the administration and human resource management of the AUC and representative of the cohost of the JOCA-AU collaboration program also alluded to the AU volunteers’ activities in the disaster area and expressed his future plans for the AU program. He said, “Africa has many natural disasters but even more civil wars, that is to say man-made disasters. The African Union is considering launching an AU volunteer collaboration program for post conflict peace building”. He also said that the AUC would be dispatching the second batch of volunteers to Japan under the JOCA-AU collaboration program within the year, and that he hoped to continue to strengthen the relationship between Japan and Africa.  

Presenting ideas for community revitalization and rehabilitation from lessons learnt in volunteer activities

Ethiopian volunteer, Mr Berhanu Tefera Presenting

The 4 volunteers in Tono city came from Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia. They carried out a number of volunteer activities such as disaster relief work in the coastal area, agricultural tasks for farmers, repairing of a ceramic stove that was damaged in the earthquake, and cultural exchange/ international understanding classes at primary schools within the city. They also assisted in agricultural tasks in JOCA’s “Furusato Revitalization Project.”

During their two months activities, the volunteers were able to exchange opinions with each other and interview local people to develop new concepts on “community revitalization through agricultural experiences in green tourism” 


Dennis Ngoga from Rwanda

On the other hand, the three volunteers in Kamaishi city came from Rwanda, Mozambique, and Kenya. They also held international cultural exchange events and English conversation sessions within Kamaishi city but at the same time helped at NPO Kirikikoku in Kirikiri, Otsuchi town by chopping firewood for sales. Mr Masahiko Haga, director and former Ethiopia JOCV volunteer established the organization to help support self-sustainability and revitalization within the community. The volunteers also visited “the Noto Girls” a group formed by former JOCV volunteers for community revitalization in Noto peninsula, Ishikawa prefecture. The volunteers discussed different ideas and analyzed questionnaires to present their ideas as a business plan and proposal for their NPO Kirikirikoku and the international cultural exchange program in Kamaishi city. 

Director-General Otsuka
Secretary General Mr Otsuka

Lastly, Mr Masaaki Otsuka, Secretary General of JOCA, reviewed the program and stated that, “the diligent attitude and activities of the volunteers were held in high regard amongst all of the parties involved in the program in Tono and Kamaishi city. I would like to especially commend the volunteers for always having positive attitudes and working hard to intergrade into Japanese communities.” 

Although the AU Youth Volunteer Corps program began in 2010, the African Union Head Quarters actually had dispatched a team to visit Japan’s JOCV program in 2007. At that time, Mr Otsuka who was the director of JICA’s JOCV program hosted the AU HQ team. Mr Otsuka reflected on some of this history as the volunteers just arrived in March and exhorted them by saying “this is a groundbreaking event for international volunteerism. I would like to welcome you who are pioneers not as guests but as coworkers, partners and close friends.”  

Volunteers appraised for their positive attitudes and
volunteer activities

“One of the outputs of this program is that the volunteers’ activities greatly changed Japans perception of Africa. I would like to emphasis that both Africa and Japan need this type of direct cooperation amongst people as well as the financial and physical type of assistance. Right now we need to increase the number of volunteers and hosting organizations to expand the AU-YVC program. The Japanese Overseas Cooperative Associations is considering partnering through its Malawi project, but due to financial restrictions, I would like to appeal to our partners and other related organizations to continue this program notwithstanding the need to consider it as an ODA program.


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