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HOME > Exchange page > Post-Programme exchange reports > Post-Programme Exchange and Activity reports > Interview with Ms. Claudia Chan, a participant of the JENESYS Invitation Programme
 
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Post-Programme Exchange and Activity reports

Interview with Ms. Claudia Chan, a participant of the JENESYS Invitation Programme

Ms. Claudia Chan
2011 Australia Japanese Language University Student, Participant

This September an ex participant from JENESYS in year 2011 named Claudia Chan (Ms.), of Australia, visited Ishimaki City and Minami San-riku Town in Miyagi Prefecture for volunteer work. Before heading to Tohoku region, she stopped by JICE office in Tokyo to discuss her stories on JENESYS and subsequent international exchanges that she initiated.

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Ms. Chan visited Iwate Prefecture in December 2011, 9 months after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Although her family is more understanding now, they first opposed the idea of their daughter travelling to Japan, a country amidst recurring earthquakes and a power plant meltdown. However, she defied opposing opinions and still decided to go, because she felt that she needed to help out the Japanese people.

Otsuchi-cho, the town Ms. Chan visited with the programme, was one of the worst disaster affected areas from the earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent fire. While traveling on the bus, she held back tears as she witnessed buildings with completely exposed foundations, cars piled up on top of each other, and a clearly visible waterline on a wall that showed the water level from the tsunami. “It surprised me that the tsunami increased the damage by going up the rivers. If I hadn’t come here personally, I would not have been able to really understand the extent of damage by the tsunami.”

Ms. Chan also discovered that a lot of trash created from the tsunami has been cleared away and that temporary housing was still being used. Media in Australia decreased the coverage, so less updates on the recovery of Japan was known. “I thought that the recovery effort was happening steadily. But I found out that there are so many things to do still.”

During the stay, Ms. Chan interacted with children of Otsuchi-cho and Iwate University students, observed local businesses in Tono and participated in a home stay. She felt her views change as she saw how people and businesses that were severely affected by the disaster still manage to contribute in their own ways to the recovery. “Even when they were going through such a tough time, they cooperated together without any complaints. I felt that if they can get through this, I can’t complain about anything either.”

Ms. Chan already supported the recovery cause straight after the tsunami by fundraisers and folding paper cranes, but after returning home, she expanded the activities even more. She started off by retelling the experiences she saw in the disaster affected area to friends and family, teaching accurate information on the disaster and the power plants. She also translated the Otsuchi-cho pamphlet with help from fellow participants, and in Christmas 2012 distributed Christmas cards and presents to children in Otsuchi-cho, naming it the “Santa Claus Project.”

In March 2013, Ms. Chan joined 60 university students from Miyagi and Fukushima prefecture visited Australia with “The Youth-Exchange Project with Asia-Oceania and North America (Kizuna (bond) Project)” as the ex-participant of the exchange programme. She took notice that assistance was still very much in need for their hometowns, and decided to go back to volunteer, which she thought about often ever since returning from JENESYS.

Ms. Chan calls JENESYS a “life changing event”. “Because of JENESYS, I was able to visit the disaster areas and experience things I would never have been able to otherwise. I hope that future participants that join this programme (JENESYS2.0), that their preconceptions of Japan will be blown away.”

((Related Information))
The travel report written by Ms. Chan can be read on the Kizuna website
"Report by a guest participant from Australia:Experiencing youth exchanges and volunteer activity"