Saturday, December 1, 2012


A new month is here again already. In just a few days, we will have been in ARI for four months! Our foodlife groups have changed, Doug is no longer working in meal service but in Group 4 crops and vegetables, and I (Jenny) am in Group 3 livestock--chickens!

December also marks the end of the participants training year. And just like any school, this means lots of presentations! Monday afternoon, the participants gathered in the classroom to share what they had learned on their Western Japan Study Tour. The first study tour they went on was in August and focused on rural communities' agricultural issues and innovations. This recent study tour was focused on human rights issues here in Japan.

They visited a leper colony where people with Leprosy have been forcefully confined for so long that they now lack the skills needed to travel outside their community. They visited the city of Minamata where the Chisso company dumped chemical by-products of fertilizer into the ocean. The chemicals contained mercury and other toxic wastes. This poisoned the fish and the local people. After much struggle, the community was finally able to receive compensation from Chisso for damages to people and the local economy. They also visited a group that is working to end discrimination against the people of Okinawa. Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost province. It has a different cultural heritage than the rest of Japan and its people have been discriminated against by other Japanese for a long time. The participants learned how the discrimination is still present today and how people are working to counter it.

They also started their final interviews and dream presentations. All of the ARI community is invited to listen to the participants as they share their dreams for their communities, incorporating philosophies and skills learned in ARI. Here they are, so far:

Kaniki comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Right now, there is a civil war going on that has been heating up since she has been here at ARI. The rebels recently entered her home town at Goma. Her organization works to help women and children who have been victims of violence. Her dream is to start a program for these women and children that will teach them some organic farming skills they can use to produce their own food. It is her hope that this will empower them to continue healing and stabilizing their communities.

Yuta is one of our two Japanese participants this year. He is twenty-one years old. As part of his presentation he described a few ways that ARI has changed him. Before he came to ARI he just ate until his mind and stomach were satisfied. Now, after working to produce his own food, he understands the value of good food and what it means to eat it. His understanding of the phrase itadakimas, said before eating, has changed. Yuta translated his understanding of the phrase, saying, “I eat your life and your life becomes my life.” His dream is to start a communal farm in Japan where young people can come to learn how important food is and what it means to eat it. He thinks that many young people in Japan are like he was; they have little understanding of food or agriculture.

Arman is one of our two participants from East Timor. He began talking about how he used to have dreams for himself: to become a football player or a priest. Now he has begun to dream for his community. He wants to share his knowledge of organic farming with his community. His hope is that they will cease to be reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides produced in another country.

Thaung Si from Myanmar wants to begin implementing garbage management practices in his community. In this way, he hopes that they will be better able to make use of their local resources. To make their own compost, he is planning to collect kitchen garbage from all kitchens at the Seminary where he lives.  Thaung Si is also interested in starting a seed bank that will work with local farmers to preserve and cultivate the seeds of their own local varieties. They will not depend on seed companies. His ultimate goal is to achieve a sustainable agricultural system that can provide food for his seminary.

Chonglise comes from a place in Northeast India. For his community, trade is important because their climate limits what they can grow. Their mountain village is too high to produce enough rice for themselves so they have to trade with neighboring communities. It is his dream to sustain his father’s farm. He also wants to stay in the rural area instead of moving to the city or America like other young people from his community. He doesn’t like the city. He says that you can get anything you want in a city but to get anything at all you have to have money. In the country, he says that the community takes care of what you need, for free, because you are one of them. He wants to be an example to other youth that it’s okay to return where you came from after getting education in the city. He has come to understand the life a farmer lives is poor in money but rich in freedom and community living.

Soni’s dream was to leave his home on an Indonesian island and see a different part of the world. Coming to Japan he has realized this dream. His new dream is to develop his rural area like Japan’s rural areas are developed. He is very impressed with the large highway system, the train system, the impressive houses, and the ingenious engineering that is even present here in Japan’s “rural” areas. He also wants to inspire the youth of his community to become more involved in agriculture. In his country too, people associate farmers with living a poor life.

Nerlande is our one participant from Haiti. She dreams of implementing a garbage sorting and recycling program in her community, and eventually all of Haiti. She wants to do this through educating the children at school. By following this discipline of garbage sorting and recycling, she hopes that her community will be healthier and happier.

Emma works with a refugee encampment in Uganda. He likens the camp to a jail--there is a fence around the perimeter with only one entrance/exit. He wants to help develop the agriculture inside the camp so that the refugees can provide more for themselves. But currently, if you give them a chicken which can produce eggs for months to come, they will just eat the chicken because they are hungry now; if you give them seeds to plant to produce fruit for the months to come, they will just eat the seeds because they are hungry now. Last he knew, there were around 20,000 refugees mainly from Sudan, DRC, and Rwanda in the camp.

Adarsh is the other participant from India. His dream is to convert the conventional (chemical dependent) farming in his community to organic farming. When his grandfather was farming, he said he used good compost and every year the fish, birds, snakes, and crabs would come back. But when chemical fertilizers and pesticides were introduced, those organisms did not return. Adarsh wants to reverse this trend by teaching in schools the advantages of organic farming.

Act Ka Hti is a young woman from Myanmar whose dream is to share with her community all that she learned at ARI about organic farming. Farmers in her community either farm the traditional way (not using fertilizers or pesticides of any kind) or conventional way (chemical fertilizers and pesticides). She wants to share all that she has learned and hopefully encourage others to farm in a way that is healthier for both people and the land. 

Juliao is the other participant from East Timor. His dream is to help his community make a clean environment and healthy food. He will start by working to spread knowledge of organic techniques to farmers in his area. He also wants to begin a school program where the students spend time tending their own fields while learning about agriculture. 

A Visit from Father Winter

Frosted field, photo courtesy of Paul Johnson,
chaplain at International Christian University
This week we have definitely noticed the frost. We have covered some young plant beds to hold in heat. Doug and I have begun to use the kerosene heater in our room! Saturday morning my group was out collecting leaves for dry-leaf compost when it began to rain. A couple of minutes later, the rain grew softer and colder...and before we knew it, we were celebrating with the first snow-flakes of the season! The snow did not seem very promising at first, as the flakes were small and round and more like ice than snow. We went about our work, me going to the kitchen to cook lunch, and the participants going to their graduate orientation. Father Winter went about his work also, the flakes grew large and white and fluffy, and stuck! The conditions most certainly would have closed down the state of Arkansas for a day--no school, no church, no dentist appointments, no choir practice. By lunch time, the snow had stopped falling, the clouds had moved on, and the sun had come out. We delayed lunch a minute or two to sled down the fantastic hill established after the demolition of Old Koinonia.

Seeing snow was a first for many participants!
The conditions most certainly would have closed down the state of Arkansas for a day--no school, no church, no dentist appointments, no choir practice--surely chaos would have ensued. By lunch time, the snow had stopped falling, the clouds had moved on, and the sun had come out. We delayed lunch a minute or two to sled down the fantastic hill established after the demolition of Old Koinonia.

A nearby field after some of the snow had melted
Snow and fall leaves :)

Let the Countdowns Begin

Even though some participants have been counting down their days since they first arrived, I think it is now appropriate to join with them. This is their last week in Japan, their last week away from their homes and families, and their last week with their new friends and ARI community. It is a bittersweet time for many. The emotions are running high in every direction, and once distant daydreams are quickly becoming reality. Bags are being packed and many clothes traded and given away to make space for family gifts. Graduation is on Saturday, Veny and Kengo will be married on Sunday, and participants will slowly make their way to the airport over the course of the the following week.

It is also a bittersweet time for me and Doug. While we have only known this community for four months, we have made some life-long friends and had some incredibly memorable times together. We are sad to say goodbye. The reality is that we will very likely never see these people again, ever. And that's a big pill to swallow. But we are excited about all the energy and dreams our friends will be taking back and sharing with their communities. While it is not yet our time to go back home to our own families, there is a piece of home coming to visit in less than two weeks. We are, of course, now counting down. 13 days.

Have a wonderful week!

Your Episcopal Missionaries,

Doug and Jenny

1 comment:

  1. Jenny and Doug,

    It sounds like the things you and the participants are learning there are really incredible and have the power to change so many communities in positive ways! I loved reading about everyone's dreams. Also the snow looks like so much fun! i hope yall are doing well. Happy holiday season!