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:
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
|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