National AJET Internationalisation Award Winner
2007-2008 Western Winner – Mrs. Fukumi Osaki
Written by Ms. Grace Williams
Since meeting her shortly after my arrival in 2005, Mrs. Osaki Fukumi has time and again demonstrated a commitment to, and tenacity in enhancing international relations within her immediate, and indeed the wider community. It is therefore without reservation that I nominate Mrs. Osaki as a most deserving recipient for the internationalisation award.
A feisty, mature individual, who undertook the study of English when she was in her 50’s, Mrs Osaki coordinates and is involved in several activities that foster international understanding and friendship. One of her many roles, is as coordinator for the weekly volunteer Japanese lessons for ALTs and other foreigners in Shiso City. Her involvement in this capacity and others, has seen her relating to persons from numerous countries – China, Germany, the U.S.A., Haiti, South Africa, Canada, Australia, the U.K., Jamaica, and the Philippines, to name a few. Not only does she encourage members of her community to participate as facilitators for these classes, but as an instructor herself, she takes personal interest in the general well-being of her students.
On many occasions, Mrs. Osaki has organized and led trips for ALTs and other foreigners, to visit places of interest and historical importance in Japan. On several of these trips she has also invited other Japanese persons to share in the experience. It is common practice for her, on these trips which include hikes, to often prepare tasty and nutritious meals for her foreign charges.
Her hospitality is well known among the foreigners in Shiso City and her home has been a refuge for many an ALT who needed to ‘unload’, seek comfort, solicit advice, or just chat and enjoy one of her many fabulous meals. Mrs. Osaki has often acted as mediator and translator for ALTs who need to communicate difficult matters to the local Board of Education. She offers advice and guidance and tirelessly extends herself above and beyond, to assist foreigners faced with challenging situations.
She has on several occasions, acted as host to visiting family members of ALTs, often keeping them entertained while the ALT is at work. Along with her husband, who speaks very little English, their home has warmly received many-a-stranger. Additionally, she has been known to offer and provide transportation, without accepting offers for reimbursement, to foreigners needing to commute from rural areas in Shiso, to convenient locations that facilitate their visits to their home countries.
Mrs. Osaki takes the time to explain Japanese customs and traditions to foreigners so that they can better understand their new cultural arena. Conversely, she explains foreign perspectives to locals, broadening their understanding and acceptance of foreigners in the community, thus creating easier transitions. For practical exposure, Mrs. Osaki invites willing ones to experience Japanese culture through a variety of means, including (but not limited to): participating in the rituals of the traditional tea ceremony, preparing local meals, participating in pottery and doll making classes, and visiting exhibitions and festivals.
As a hard-working coordinator of the annual Shiso International Friendship Festival committee, Mrs. Osaki not only assists with organization and translation, but helps to dispel anxieties among participants who sometimes fear the worst because of being faced with the prospect of working (on food purchase and preparation, and booth decoration) with persons of another language group or ethnicity. She seems to possess multiple bodies at the time of the festival, as she visits each food preparation site, inspiring a smile and refreshing the atmosphere with her jovial personality.
A firm yet flexible individual, Osaki Fukumi has taken cross-cultural relations to new heights in Shiso City. This individual forges ahead, undaunted, to open doors and create alliances. Approachable to anyone who needs her, she is known for her initiative in fostering understanding across international borders.
Given the foregoing, it is my belief that this mature and outgoing individual epitomizes what the International Awards were created for. It is therefore with great sincerity and appreciation, that I humbly submit that the honour of recognition for the 2008 International Awards be conferred upon a most deserving recipient, who I call “Mom”, Mrs Osaki Fukumi.
National AJET Internationalisation Award Winner
2007-2008 Eastern Winner – Mr. Kendra Barua
Written by Ms. Nadia Shairzay
Seated across the tables in a community center hall are people from around the world; Japan, American, Nepal, Canada, Australia, the U.K and New Zealand. Some are dressed in Nepali saris and all are eating Nepali food. The scene is a Nepali charity lunch held in Saku, Nagano. Before coming to Japan I never thought that such an event would become part of my life as a JET. However, thanks to Kendra Barua and his work as head of CAB (Community Aid Bridge, formed in 2001) the JETs in Saku have been able to take part in internationalization at a grassroots level.
As the president of CAB, Kendra works towards the organization’s goal of bringing the Japanese and foreign communities in Saku together and welcoming foreign residents to the city. When the other new JETs and I first came to Saku in 2006, CAB sent letters to each school welcoming us to the Saku community and explaining about CAB. It was a heartening gesture and showed Kendra’s commitment to making foreign residents feel welcome. My friends and I quickly joined CAB and were immediately plugged into a network of very genki Japanese residents. Shortly after my arrival in Saku, and despite my low level in Japanese, I had Japanese friends. I could learn about Japanese life from them and in turn I could tell them about my home country.
Kendra organizes many events for the Japanese and foreign residents of Saku to get together. There were sports days (including curling), hikes, barbeques and frequent apple picking at a local orchard in the fall. Kendra and CAB are not only concerned with providing fun activities to promote internationalization but also with the well being of the foreign residents of Saku. Each year Kendra works hard sponsoring a comprehensive health check at the Saku Sogo Hospital. Not only are there English translators, but also those who speak Thai, Portuguese, Tagalog and Spanish to serve a wide range of Saku residents.
Kendra has also provided the means to allow foreign residents to become more integrated into the community by organizing weekly language classes. Kendra made placement tests, paired each JET with a Japanese teacher and organized the venue. I always look forward to Japanese class on Tuesday evenings. Each week we (the students and the teachers) spend as much time chatting after class as we do studying in the classroom.
The mission of CAB has expanded its reach to Nepal, under the leadership of Kendra. In 2004 Kendra brought global service into CAB’s mission with the establishment of the Children’s Health Clinic (Nepal Project). CAB funds a National Children’s Correctional Home in Nepal. With the help of Kendra and CAB the clinic has been able to eradicate Tuberculosis and Chicken Pox. The aforementioned charity lunch in the opening paragraph was the annual Nepal Project fundraiser. For the past two years other JETs and I have been privileged to volunteer at the event. CAB members cook a Nepali lunch that is open to the whole community. The money from the lunch is able to support the operation of the clinic for one year. It is a wonderful experience for a good cause and none of it would be possible without the leadership of Kendra. Japan is often characterized as insular and homogenous but the degree of internationalization offered by events such as the Nepali lunch, shatter this view. When I came to Japan I expected to learn about Japanese culture and to explain American culture. I never anticipated that I would learn about Nepali culture as well and be able to meet and befriend Japanese residents outside of my school.
Kendra works hard for the goal of internationalization and has affected the community. Kendra’s dedication to provide help and assistance to foreign residents is felt not only at the community level but also at the personal level as well. Kendra helped my friend and I buy cars and the whole process was simple and fast with his help. He does not hesitate to help when I have car trouble or need some translation assistance. He and is wife have opened up their home to myself and other JETs. A former JET and close friend of Kendra refers to him as “Buddha” and it is a rather apt characterization. At the 2007 Nepali lunch I horribly botched the dessert (gulab jamun) I was making. I was upset because the lunch was the next day and Kendra had brought the mix from Nepal. When I told Kendra, though, he was calm and optimistic. Not wanting to let him, CAB, or the lunch down, late that night me and the other JETs worked to make the dessert from scratch. Kendra is patient, selfless and helpful. I am happy to call him my friend and happy to be a part of CAB.
Kendra works very hard not only to bring the Japanese and foreign residents of Saku together and not only to support a charity, but also to be a resource for JETs and other foreign residents. Kendra has achieved internationalization by providing an open forum for all sorts of different people to meet, learn and laugh. It would be hard to repay Kendra for his kindness and dedication but receiving the National AJET Internationalization Award would be the best way to honor and recognize his work in the community.