Scouts Australia received a grant from the Australia Japan Foundation (AJF) of $28,000 to help young people of the Greater Tohoku Region to recover, through Scouting, from the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The concept started with a small initiative, and is being embedded through our established and wider international Scouting programs. It has already, and will continue, to enhance our relationship for the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Kirara-hama. This “community to community” initiative is connecting many hundreds of young people from Greater Tohoku and Australia in a safe environment. It is contributing to long term and closer ties between our two countries, the sharing of ideas, and better appreciation of each other’s cultures. This innovative and cost effective proposal is also resulting in sustained peer group support for the young people of Greater Tohoku.
(i) 23rd Australian Scout Jamboree
With the assistance of the AJF grant, Scouts Australia hosted 4 youth members from the Scout Association of Japan (SAJ), and their Leader, to the Australian Scout Jamboree (AJ2013) in Maryborough, Queensland, in January 2013. All were affected in some way by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Prior to the Jamboree, the SAJ Scouts and their Leader enjoyed a full 6 days of home hospitality in Brisbane with Queensland Branch Leaders, and camped with 1st Yaralla troop from the Hume Region (NSW) at the Jamboree. The Troop was very excited to be hosting these special participants; they even learnt some basic Japanese! The Troop Leader advised that the visiting Scouts, their Leader and her troop had a wonderful time with strong friendships formed. Most of the Scouts in the Troop are enthusiastic about going to the 23rd World Jamboree in 2015 in Japan.
On Saturday 5 January 2013, I hosted to the Jamboree Mr Junzo Fujita, the Japanese Consul-General to Queensland. (Regrettably, the Japanese Ambassador was unable to attend the event, owing to his absence overseas.). He was able to visit the Scouts and Leader in their Troop lines and enjoy a meal with them. The International Reception that evening included a cultural display by the Japanese Scouts. These youth also did a cultural performance on stage during the Jamboree’s international evening, in front of many thousands of Australian youth.
By camping with thousands of other youth their same age for 11 days, guided by qualified adult leaders in a range of outdoor activities, and by being hosted by an Australian family for 6 days, these youth learnt much about Australian customs and traditions, and Australian youth learnt a lot about the Japanese way of life.
(ii) Pen-Pal Program
The grant also promoted friendship between Scouts Australia and Scouts of Japan through the Scouts Australia Pen-pal program.
Building on the “community to community” relationship, we have established a structured youth program for Australian Scouts, including from the 2013 Australian Jamboree, to communicate and partner with Scouts from Greater Tohoku at the 2015 World Jamboree. These initiatives will help ensure an enduring relationship and better understanding of each other’s interests, between many hundreds of Australian youth and affected youth of Greater Tohoku.
Since returning to Japan, the Scouts who attended AJ2013 have maintained contact with Scouts throughout Australia, via the Penpal Program. The 4 Japanese Scouts met these “pen-pals” in person at the Jamboree, and established a rapport with them.
(iii) Students in Scouting Exchange Program
The Scout International Student Exchange Program (SISEP) provides a short term, approximately 6 week, opportunity for Venturer age Scouts, 15-17 years (inclusive) to travel, live, and study with fellow Scouts in Australia. Participants stay with a host family (with a Venturer in the family), attend school and participate in Scouting activities.
A female Venturer from the Scout Association of Japan and a student at Kamaishi High School (and whose family was affected by the disaster) was funded by the grant under the SISEP program. In July/August 2013, the Venturer spent 5 weeks in Sydney with a host family attending school and Venturers with the daughter of the host family. To our delight, she enjoyed a weekend in Canberra during her Australian stay to coincide with the annual International Team meeting of Scouts Australia. She was also hosted to a day of sightseeing by a Leader from the ACT Branch.
Another three female Venturers affected by the disaster will spend a month in Sydney or Adelaide in July/August 2014.
The grant has enabled Scouts Australia to help improve the quality of life of Scouts in especially difficult circumstances, and thereby contribute to the World Organisation of Scouting Strategic Priority number 4 “Reaching Out”.
We hope that, through our various Scouts Australia Programs, and with the wonderful financial assistance of the Australia Japan Foundation, these Scouts and their families will feel supported as they recover from the trauma of their natural disaster. We hope these young people have also appreciated a totally different culture, and have formed positive friendships for life.