DC Day 11: August 1, 2013

This is H.I, and I will write about what we experienced on August 1st. In the morning, we had a social entrepreneurship workshop presented by LearnServe International. We came up with a list of social problems which irritates us, and discussed the ways to solve one of them in groups. Our group decided to make a social action project on racial profiling. Our plan was to establish an organization which hosts events such as community work and soccer leagues and have participants from various wards of Washington D.C. The other groups worked on raising awareness of police officers who abuse their rights and youth’s involvement in politics. After that, we headed to Ellington and made a quilt there. We each designed one quilt with a symbol, and stuck it to two large cloths — one for the D.C side and one for Japan.

One thing I learned that stuck to my mind is that there are different ways to make a social change. Before this workshop, I used to think that taking an action which directly approaches the problem was the only basic way for normal citizens like us to make a social change. However, I learned that advocating and raising awareness is just as effective as taking direct action, which surprised me. This helped me connect to new possibilities to how I can make a difference in society.

What struck my “heart” the most was what Scott Rechler, Director of LearnServe International, said; he mentioned that we shouldn’t wait for things to happen, but make it happen on our own. Right before the end of the workshop, he showed us a video of what LearnServe International does, which was to fund and support high school social entrepreneurs. From the video, I learned that even students like us don’t have to wait until we become adults to create our own social project. Since there are many things I leave aside just because I think I am too young, this impressed me and motivated me to think of things I would like to undertake without giving in easily. Though this is something people from other organizations have been pointing out a lot, Scott also told us to keep our eyes open to find opportunities all around us. The thought of creating my own project seemed extremely unreal and distant from my range of what I’m capable of handling, but after this project, it became much closer to reality for me.

H.I.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan

DC Day 2: July 23, 2013

This is H.I! I’m going to write about what we did on July 23rd. On our second day of our program, we first visited United Way, which is an organization which does things related to volunteering. Here, we learned about the organization itself and gained knowledge on volunteering. We also had a fun quiz in the style of “Jeopardy”, which is a famous American quiz show. After that, we took a walk around Alexandria, which is a historical city in Virginia. We visited the Torpedo Factory and went inside art workshops. Then we headed back to United Way and made a literacy kit, which is something which helps volunteers who read to children find a more engaging way to interact with the children. When we finished creating our literacy kits, we visited the Old Japanese Ambassador’s residence where we listened to speeches made by our sponsors of the program and met other Japanese students participating in another TOMODACHI program.

From my observation, I found the fact that Americans tend to volunteer much more than Japanese to be the most intriguing one. Although Japanese people understand that volunteering is a good thing, it still is not a common activity. There aren’t many opportunities to try volunteering. In my opinion, I think this reflects the difference in culture from two points. The first point is the distance people keep between each other. In Japan, the distance between people is relatively far, and people tend to keep a certain distance with those who aren’t familiar to them. However, here in the U.S, I feel that the distance between strangers is much closer. I see people on the metro making compliments to a total stranger, and the people passing out newspapers saying “Have a nice day sir” which all seemed new to me. Also, I think we can bring this to a deeper level of the people’s loyalty towards a country. As we have been learning, the Americans seem to have a stronger sense of patriotism and loyalty towards their country as people of diverse races need to unite. Therefore, it looks like people want to make a contribution to the society by doing what they can, like volunteering. I thought we should bring this custom of volunteering into Japan as well so that all citizens can feel like they are part of the society and become philanthropic.

What impressed me by “heart” the most was that volunteering can not only benefit the ones being volunteered, but also the volunteers themselves. In other words, lending a helping hand can make this world a happier place. I learned about the various volunteering events United Way held, and the participants seemed to be enjoying their time. By volunteering, it helps us connect with another person, expand our view of the world and can help ourselves find what we like doing. I was moved by this since I was able to see volunteering from a new perspective. I would like to continue thinking more about volunteering, and what I can do for my society, starting by taking action locally.

H.I.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan