Oshima youth return
CAMP FOSTER — Fifteen students and chaperones from Oshima, Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, arrived for the 3rd annual Oshima youth cultural exchange program July 31 at Naha Airport.
The Oshima youth cultural exchange program brings children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami of March 11, 2011 to Camp Foster to experience the American lifestyle on base, according to Robert D. Eldridge, the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Installations Pacific.
The goal of the program is to provide children from Oshima with an experience that will enhance their worldview, according to Eldridge. By seeing a different part of Japan, and experiencing U.S. culture, it broadens their horizons.
During their trip, the students will stay with volunteers and their families.
The volunteers have opened their homes to give the children a new homelife experience, according to E. M. Gray, liaison officer to III Marine Expeditionary Force with Logistics, Plans, Policies, and Strategic Mobility Division, Installations and Logistics, Headquarters Marine Corps.
“(The people of Oshima are) living in hard times, but their futures are brightened by keeping their good attitudes and work ethics,” said Gray. “We’re just trying to give them hope and let them know that people still care. They can make it through.”
With the emotional well-being of the island’s children in mind, the Oshima youth cultural exchange organizers focused on making sure the visiting students of all ages have a well-rounded trip.
In past visits, the students participating have been between grades five and eight, according to Eldridge. Due to the length of the school year, this iteration marks the first time high school students will take part in the program.
This year’s events will include an internship with the American Chamber of Commerce, a night of bowling and a luau pool party, according to Cullen A. Ohashi, Family Care Branch chief, Marine Corps Community Services Okinawa.
As they retrieved their luggage, the students wondered out loud what they could look forward to during the exchange.
“With all the trips they have planned, we are going to be very busy and that’s exciting,” said Saya Onodera, a 15-yearold student from Oshima and second-time participant in the exchange. “We appreciate (the Oshima youth cultural exchange program) and the Marine Corps very much for giving us this opportunity to visit. I hope that my friendship with the Marine Corps blossoms with each visit.”
The participants and their chaperones are scheduled to visit until August 6, when they return to Oshima.