April 2009: JET Effect Spotlight

Linking Kids Across the Globe Through Giving

Last Christmas, beloved 5th-year Kumamoto JET, Azwinndini Ratshionya, went home to South Africa for a visit. During his stay, he visited South Africa’s northernmost province, Limpopo, on the border with Botswana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, where a cholera outbreak had affected hundreds of children. “Most of the kids affected were Zimbabweans and I asked why and the answer was because they have absolutely nothing. They are poor, desperate” Azwinndini says of his experience and the reason he decided to take action, “I knew that if I ask for help I can get it and I started.”

Azwinndini brought his experience with him back to Japan and presented a wonderful idea to his JTE, Mr. Shiga: He would share this story with his Elementary students and give them the opportunity to get involved and help out by collecting unwanted school supplies to send to kids in Zimbabwe. His JTE was enthusiastic about the idea. It was a great final chance to give something back to a town they loved before they both had to move on. Not only was his JTE behind him 100%, but Azwinndini also spoke with his students about his project during English class. “My students motivated me to push on through,” Azwinndini says.

It was easy to get others excited about the idea; the principal of his school jumped right on board to help move the project forward. Azwinndini shared his idea with other ALTs in his town, Tamana-shi, and pretty soon elementary and junior high school students all around Tamana were collecting pencils, pens, and notebooks to send to kids their age on the other side of the world. As the supplies started rolling in, Azwinndini assembled a list of schools in Zimbabwe, writing each one a letter before he sends a box of supplies from his students.

The project has continued to be contagious. It seems that the whole town is behind Azwinndini in this endeavor. James Smyth, a fellow Tamana JET involved in the project, contacted a local business woman and member of the Tamana International Society, Mrs. Reiko Mizumoto. James says of her involvement, “She got that group involved, and she also contacted her friends at the newspapers.” The project has now already appeared in the “Kumamoto Nichinichi” and “Asahi” newspapers. “It was pretty easy to get everyone to help. They all want to do something for people in other countries, but so often they don’t have the chance,” James says.

As of now, the group has already collected more than 180kg of materials, a number the kids can definitely be proud of. As they imagine kids like them using Hello Kitty pencils and Anpanman erasers in Zimbabwe, not only have the students learned a memorable lesson about another part of the world, but they have also realized that they can reach out and make a small difference as part of a global community.

To contact Azwinndini for more information about this project or to donate money to help send the next batch of materials to Zimbabwe, send an e-mail to and we will put you in touch.

Also send JET Effect nominations to the same address,