Japan America Society of Southern California
Building Japan-America Relationships Since 1909
 
 
Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program



FYCEP is made possible by generous grants from


        


The Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program provides a life-changing experience for children living in children's home (orphanage), located in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. They have no financial means to participate and benefit from international cultural exchange activities.

It will positively affect the lives of the children by planting the seeds of international understanding. And it is made possible without tapping into the orphanage's extremely limited budget.

For 10 days, the children will enjoy the experience of living in the U.S. with an American family!

The Challenge

There are 585 children’s homes (orphanages) in Japan. Nineteen of these homes are located in Tohoku, the region most severely affected by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

The Japan America Society of Southern California (JASSC) has developed a personal relationship with the largest of these Tohoku children’s homes: Fukushima Aiikuen (FA).

Established over 120 years ago, FA is located outside the evacuation zone of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Beginning in September 2011, JASSC has made several tranches from its 2011 Japan Relief Fund to support FA, which is home to 90 children, ages 2 to 18, all affected daily by the nuclear radiation crisis.

Despite two “decontamination” cleansings of FA’s buildings and surrounding areas, radiation is still detected at high levels on the ground. Thus, three years after Japan’s worst natural disaster, FA’s youngest children are allowed to go outside for only 10 minutes per day. Older children are allowed outside only 1.5 hours per day, basically the time it takes to ride or bike to and from school.

Fukushima Aiikuen’s Limited Resources


FA provides a safe, caring and clean environment for its children. However, like all children’s homes in Japan, FA falls short in addressing finer issues.

Most of the children still lack the guidance, skills and tools needed to encourage them to pursue a better future. They are trapped in a life that will be mediocre, at best. With the nuclear power plant crisis, the FA children have the added burden of worrying about serious health issues that could arise from daily radiation exposure.

An additional challenge is FA’s extremely limited budget. Like all orphanages in Japan, the first priority is to feed and clothe the children. The next priority is to maintain the homes’ facilities. There are no funds available for extra supplies, such as the items FA purchased with funds from JASSC 2011 Japan Relief Fund. Nor are there funds for extracurricular activities.

Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program

To help FA children overcome some of these challenges, JASSC applied for and won a grant for its “Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program”. The grant is provided by the TOMODACHI–NAJAS Grassroots Exchange Program, managed by the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private program to help support the recovery of the Tohoku region.

Thanks to this grant, eight children from FA, aged 14 to 18, accompanied by an FA staff member, visited Los Angeles from July 20–30, 2013. Another, similar FA delegation will visit Los Angeles in July 2014. Extra funds from the grant will cover the expenses for the FA children’s passport fees, travel insurance and other items required of any Japanese making a first-time visit to the U.S.

Beginning July 2015, JASSC and partners will strive to have the Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program continue indefinitely, with in-kind and monetary donations from Southern California and Japan.

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For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kay Amano, Programs Director at 310-965-9050 x104.


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