ECOPLUS conducted its flagship program, Yap-Japan Cultural Exchange Program 2018 from 18 to 29 August with nine students from high school to university in Dechumur village, Tamil, Yap. Provided cooked and un-coocked food like bread fruit, taro, fishes, crabs and others, students learnt a lot of locals skills like, weaving coconuts fronds or fishing in the ocean.
The Program started 1992 and since then ECOPLUS continued the program almost every year. For Dechumur village, it was the first time to host the group.
The base of the program was the women’s house of the village. Next to the concrete building, local toilet, shower room and cooking place were set. Next to the toilet, some trees had very soft leaves called “toilet leaf,” so students used those for their daily use. It was easily degraded rather than toilet paper. Low impact was one of the key words of the program.
One of the most impressive experiences was homestay. Each student was accepted by a different family for 2 nights. Modern economy and culture are changing Yap’s traditional lifestyle but the situations are different family by family. A host family was living in thatched roof houses under a huge tree and another host family has electric washing machine. However, family ties are quite strong in all families. During the stay, some families held a celebrating gathering. Through the stay, student impressed by the strong bond among the family members.
Having so many new experiences, like going to fish with local boys in the lagoon, hunting crabs in night time, being surprised the brightness of the moon, students safely return to Narita airport in the morning of 29 August. From students, such comments were continued. “It looks like the program is not yet terminated. We will digest so many things we learnt and those will guide us toward the our own lives for long time.”
They will work together to make an activity report of the program and will held a reporting session in late autumn.
A reflection session by volunteers for “Welcome Yap” Project in past two weeks was held in Waseda University in Tokyo in the evening of Friday, 23 March. Among eleven volunteers, eight persons and a videographer who had been with us almost the period joined the meeting.
They donated their time and money for the project heavily since the first meeting in last November accumulating meetings and site visits to identify the most ideal places for the Yapese students. All of activities of each day was organized by responsible team members of the day. One of volunteers was an IT engineer who took days off for this project and joined almost entire period.
During the meeting, they exchange comments and fanny stories during the time, watching photos of Yapese students during the project. Many commented they will come back to Yap to see students they spent time together this time.
The project was supported by so many students, families, ex-participants of ECOPLUS’s program in Yap, and organizations, like Keidanren Nature Reserve Fund, United Airlines, Patagonia, Minamiuonuma City Board of Education.
Today, we went back from Niigata to Tokyo by bus. It was impressive that the students from Yap tried to see out of the window not to forget the scenery of Niigata. In the bus, they reflected what they had done in these nine days with the pictures.
After arrived at Tokyo, they deepened their learnings during this program and discussed what kind of future did they want in Yap. Then, they considered what they could do by themselves to make it happen.
During a farewell party in the evening, the students from Yap gave a presentation about their desired future of Yap and their learnings. Many people came and joined the farewell party including our supporters, host families and the people who had been to Yap. Thanks to them, it was a worm and wonderful party.
After the Yapese students gathered with their host families in the morning 18th March, they had a social gathering. We saw their big smiles in the pictures during homestay, so that we could immediately find they had a wonderful time. Also, Yapese students gave a presentation and introduced about Yap, and their host families listened carefully.
After that, they enjoyed making ice-cream by making good use of snow, and playing with snow. Then, they had a reflection session about these days, and shared their findings and thoughts from their own perspectives.
For dinner, they ate more than the first day. We kept laughing during dinner and seemed to get to know well each other through these eight days.夕食では初日より食べる量が増えていたり、笑いが絶えなかったり、8日間もの間一緒に過ごしてきたことを実感しました。
In the morning, the Yapese students visited Yabukami primary school and learned Japanese traditional games and calligraphy from the school children. The Yapese students had an opportunity to give a presentation about Yap to the students and enjoyed school lunch for the first time.
In the afternoon, the Yapese students experienced Japanese traditional rope making and handicrafts with straws. Since Yap has similar tradition to make ropes, they did well. They had opportunities to introduce Yapese culture such as making ropes with the fiber of coconuts, as well as splitting coconuts.
After the fruitful day, the Yapese students left for another homestay in Niigata.