Oshima teens make splash at Camp Foster
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- The sound of laughter and music float through the air, as visiting students and their host families enjoy a refreshing afternoon luau pool party.
Students with the 3rd annual Oshima youth cultural exchange program and their host families attended a luau Aug. 4 at the 50-meter pool on Camp Foster.
This was one of several scheduled events for the group from July 31 – Aug. 6 that included a social gathering with local American teens, a bowling night and a mini-internship with the American Chamber of Commerce in Okinawa.
The exchange program promotes the needs of service member and Status of Forces Agreement children’s cultural and educational horizons through sharing and bonding with the children of Oshima, according to Robert D. Eldridge, the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
The visiting students, from Oshima, Kensennuma, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, stay with volunteer host families that care for the children for the duration of their stay on Okinawa. The students were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred in March 2011.
“The Oshima students shared their culture with our American teens during the week’s events, especially at the cultural exchange talent show and brunch, where they performed a traditional Oshima dance they prepared as a way of saying thanks,” said Cullen A. Ohashi, a host-family volunteer and chief of the Family Care Branch, Marine Corps Community Services, Okinawa. “The Oshima students and our teens have been able to interact and have a really beneficial cultural exchange.”
The program also introduced the students to the life of American children and families living in Okinawa.
“This is my first time attending the program,” said Itsuki Otani, a 17-year-old student participant of the program. “I like the environment and atmosphere here on (Camp Foster) and Okinawa. My host family is very kind, and the food is really good.”
The events were all planned to give the participants the opportunity to intermingle while having a good time.
“My hope is that programs like this strengthen our relationship with our host nation,” said Corrine Williams, the program director for McTureous School-Age Care Program and Courtney Youth and Teen Center. “I think the kids are having a great time. The excitement they have when they were out there dancing and interacting shows in the smiles on their faces.”
The time spent together also led to the formation of friendships.
“I love it all, and I’m really enjoying myself,” said Otani. “I’ve made many great friends. I cannot thank them enough for this opportunity.”
As the trip nears its end, the organizers and students are energized by the success of this year’s exchange and look forward to next year’s scheduled program.
“They’re really looking forward to returning if they can,” said Ohashi. “The kids that are here really enjoy it, and when they go back and tell their friends it brings more interest to the program because (their friends) want to take part in the next program.”