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Tomodachi Japanese leadership program sees reduction in participants

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FEBRUARY 26, 2013

The Tomodachi Summer 2013 SoftBank Leadership Program will bring 100 Japanese high school students affected by the 2011 earthquake to UC Berkeley this summer in an effort to equip them with the skills needed to help rebuild disaster areas.

But bringing fewer than half as many students as last year, the program comes in a drastically reduced form.

Tomodachi began in 2012 in the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese earthquake as a one-time arrangement aimed at teaching Japanese high school students from affected regions the skills in leadership and development needed to rebuild disaster zones.

The three-week program was developed in partnership with the nonprofit organization Ayusa International and Japanese telecommunications firm SoftBank Corp., which has decided to fund the program for at least another summer in light of last year’s success.

Mariko Osada, a SoftBank spokesperson, said that the reduction in numbers is about making the program more efficient as well as attempting to foster better communication among participants.

“With 300 people taking part the students were not able to get to know each other,” Osada said.

Nevertheless, entrance into the program is set to be competitive. Last year more than 2,100 students applied for 300 positions. With only 100 places this year and more recognition, David Beiser, the director of grant programs at Ayusa, believes the program will become even more competitive as a result of the increase in applicants.

Hazuki Inoue, a program assistant with Tomodachi last summer, has called the program a “good cultural exchange.”

“(The program) was about the students bringing what they have learned back to their homeland to help those who have been affected by the earthquake,” Inoue said.

A SoftBank press release highlighted Haruna Shiraiwa, a former participant who has since started a sight-seeing program in Iwate with the travel agency H.I.S. in the hopes of bringing more tourism to the area.

Faculty members with the Center for Cities and Schools, the campus organization administering the program,  will be involved in educating students in areas related to housing, business, jobs, public spaces, energy and sustainability. The CC&S curriculum seeks to encourage young people to engage and help make positive changes in society, said Deborah McKoy, executive director of the CC&S.

More information on the Tomodachi program for summer 2013 will be made available at Wurster Hall at 6 p.m. on March 11 at an art opening celebrating the works of former Tomodachi participants.

Contact Eoghan Hughes at 

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FEBRUARY 26, 2013


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