2019 TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program Graduates Share Their Training Experiences in Boston
From August 2 to December 2, 2019, Kaito Toyoda, Kasumi Kamizuka, and Tomoya Nakanishi participated in the 2019 TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program, taking part in disability leadership and advocacy trainings in Boston, Massachusetts. Over the course of four months, the trainees engaged in a spectrum of activities, including an intensive orientation to the program, individualized internships with disability-focused government or community organizations, weekly leadership seminars, and English language training.
On November 22, 2019, the three trainees presented on their own independent projects, studies, and experiences at the program awards ceremony in Boston. At the ceremony, several distinguished guests joined in celebrating the trainees’ achievements, including internship supervisors and mentors, host families, community organization representatives, and faculty, students, and staff from the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Kaito Toyoda is in the School of Culture, Media, and Society at Waseda University, and has actively shared his disability experience and his efforts to raise peer disability awareness in Japan. Through his TOMODACHI training, he hoped to learn effective strategies to bolster community advocacy, including the use of social media to spread disability awareness and understanding. He interned with the Ruderman Family Foundation, a Boston-based foundation that works to further the inclusion of people with disabilities in society. Kaito commented, “This four-month experience in Boston was a new and valuable challenge for me. I’ve interacted with people with different disabilities and different racial and cultural backgrounds, something I’m not used to experiencing in Japan. This enabled me to reflect on and examine who I am and what I value in life.”
Kasumi Kamizuka is a student at Gunma University majoring in special education. As a Deaf educator and advocate, she organizes a support group at her university that brings together students with disabilities to share information, experiences, and resources. Through her TOMODACHI training, she planned to learn about community programs in the United States that support and empower Deaf people, including Deaf immigrants with limited English and American Sign Language (ASL) skills. She interned with Deaf, Inc., a non-profit organization that serves the Deaf community in the Greater Boston area. Reflecting on her experience, Kasumi said: “I became more self-confident through the TOMODACHI Program. I used to see myself as an individual with a disability and limited opportunities. But over the past four months, I’ve come to realize and appreciate my Deaf identity and see it as a strength.”
Tomoya Nakanishi is majoring in sociology at Ritsumeikan University. While learning how to cope with his new life, Tomoya became involved with a local non-profit organization that supports college students with disabilities with their academic studies and independent living. As a TOMODACHI trainee, Tomoya sought to understand how people with disabilities in the United States fare, the services and support available to them, and their opinion of this support, for comparing the situation with that in Japan. Tomoya interned with the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL). Looking back over the past four months, Tomoya said: “The internship [with BCIL] enabled me to examine leadership from multiple angles. I not only learned practical skills, but also gained a new perspective and outlook on life as a person with a disability, thanks to my internship supervisor, who is also disabled.”
With the completion of their training and final presentations, the three trainees have taken another step forward on their journeys. We expect that they will continue to find success in their respective fields as the next generation of Japanese disability leaders.
This program is supported by the Northrop Grumman Corporation and implemented by the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at UMass Boston.
Applications are now open for the TOMODACHI Disability Leadership Program 2020, please click here for more information.