TOMODACHI Students Forge International Friendships and Practice Community Service
By: Melissa Trinley, Short-term ESL and American Culture Program Manager
For the second summer in a row CCI Greenheart has worked with Experiment in International Living Japan to bring Japanese teens on our American Culture and ESL Programs. Students arrived through the TOMODACHI Initiative Summer Coca-Cola Educational Homestay Program which provides high school students from areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 the opportunity to take part in a cultural exchange program to the US. The aim is to broaden the knowledge and experience of the next generation of leaders by providing them the opportunity to learn about new cultures and practice their English language skill. The program is highly selective; only 120 students out of 800 applicants were accepted to the program and 96 of those students experienced homestays through CCI Greenheart.
After spending a few days in Atlanta and D.C. the students divided into six groups and traveled to various host communities including: Keller, TX, Shoreview, MN, New Bloomfield, MO, Burlington, VT, Erie, PA and Elizabethtown, KY. For one and a half weeks the students lived with volunteer host families, took ESL classes, participated in afternoon excursions including university visits and trips to famous locations and each group participated in a community service project! Students in Vermont took sailing lessons, the Minnesota the students shopped until they dropped at the Mall of America, Kentucky they learned all about horse racing at the famous Church Hill Downs and in Pennsylvania the students took a trip to Niagara Falls.
In true Greenheart fashion each group took part in a Greenheart Volunteer project to as a means to give back to their host community. Students also took home some ideas on how they could help rebuild their communities back home. In Texas, the students held a car wash to benefit the Community Storehouse which provides food, clothing and household items for needy families. They held the car wash for 4 hours on a weekday afternoon and collected $161. According to Regional Manager Pam O’Neil, “They (the students) were very surprised; they never heard of doing this kind of activity to raise money for needy people and were talking about how they could do this in Japan to raise money for the relief efforts in Japan.”
TOMODACHI, which means “friendship” in English, is true to its name; the program forged new friendship between US and Japanese citizens. In the words of one host mother, “I became very attached to my two students. I not only learned more about Japanese traditions, I got to experience making “green tea” and doing Origami. My expectations exceeded anything I could have imagined. My students left with a greater knowledge of KY and the USA and I have a piece of Japan that I will never forget. “
These six CCI Greenheart communities will never forget their new Japanese friends. Thank you TOMODACHI for partnering with CCI Greenheart. We look forward to welcoming more students in 2014.