Students from Iwate Experience Cultural Exchanges in Southern California
Four middle school students from a foster care home in Iwate prefecture were “pioneers” as the first delegation to travel abroad in the home’s more than 60-year history. The four students, along with their chaperone, visited Los Angeles, California from August 3 to August 11, 2017 as part of the TOMODACHI Southern California-Iwate Youth Cultural Exchange Program. The experience was life-changing for the Japanese students, as well as for their American host families and volunteers. Due to their circumstances, these students do not have the financial means to participate and benefit from international cultural exchange activities. This program positively impacted their lives by planting the seeds of international understanding, particularly concerning the U.S.-Japan relationship.
The students enjoyed the experience of living in the U.S. with an American family. In addition to their homestay experience, the students had extensive contact with other Americans through sightseeing and social activities, along with exposure to American culture and values. They interacted and shared experiences with American students and learned about the history and contributions of Japanese Americans. These activities provided a mental and physical break from the stresses of their lives in Japan. They returned home refreshed and filled with lessons that will inspire them to become successful contributing members of their communities. The program also established strong personal connections between the youth of Iwate and Los Angeles.
This exchange is one of four exchanges under the TOMODACHI NAJAS Grassroots Exchange Program for 2017. In previous years, JAS SoCal completed exchanges with children’s homes in Fukushima and Miyagi. This is their first year conducting the program with Iwate prefecture.